03:54pm Friday 15 December 2017

Warm welcome awaits breastfeeding mums

With the onset of the good weather and two May bank holidays just around the corner, many families will be thinking about venturing out on day trips.

With this in mind the Public Health Agency (PHA) would like to make local families aware that many popular attractions, businesses and council facilities across Northern Ireland are members of the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ scheme, which aims to make breastfeeding in public easier. The scheme, which is operated by the PHA, was started in 2005 and now has 234 members who are helping to increase social acceptability of breastfeeding by supporting breastfeeding mums who may want to feed their baby when out and about.

Research shows that the healthiest babies are those who are breastfed for longer. That is why the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until around six months and that breastfeeding can continue after solid foods are introduced. Currently breastfeeding rates are lower in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK with 64% of mothers in Northern Ireland starting breastfeeding when their baby is born compared with the UK average of 81%. By six weeks after birth the prevalence of breastfeeding among mothers in Northern Ireland had fallen to 33% compared with a UK average of 55%. The ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ scheme can make it easier for mums to carry on breastfeeding for longer.

Janet Calvert, the Regional Breastfeeding Lead at the PHA, said: “We would like to reassure new mums that if they are a little hesitant about breastfeeding in public, not to be put off from planning days out with the family.

“If a mother is worried or embarrassed about feeding in public, she can wear clothing which helps with being discreet or use a baby blanket as a cover up. It is possible to breastfeed without anyone even being aware of what is happening.

“Breastfed babies are less likely to be admitted to hospital with gastric or chest infections and children who have been breastfed are at less risk of becoming obese or developing childhood diabetes. There are also benefits for mums, as mothers who breastfeed are less likely overall to develop serious illnesses such as osteoporosis, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.”

Venues that have signed up to the scheme have pledged to welcome breastfeeding mothers and agreed to display a pink sticker and certificate which shows that they are members of the scheme. Participants include restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, libraries, community centres and tourist attractions.

A full list of the businesses involved in the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ scheme is available at www.breastfedbabies.org

Notes to the editor

In order to join the ‘Breastfeeding welcome here’ scheme venues must agree to the following criteria.

  • Breastfeeding is acceptable in all areas of the premises;
  • Mothers will not be asked to stop breastfeeding;
  • Staff are aware of the scheme and are supportive of breastfeeding;
  • A sticker and a certificate showing membership of the scheme will be displayed.

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