The Minister was speaking as he launched a new Breastfeeding Strategy for Northern Ireland. The launch took place at a joint UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative and Public Health Agency (PHA) conference on breastfeeding and relationship building.
The new Strategy sets out the strategic direction to protect, promote, support and normalise breastfeeding in Northern Ireland over the next ten years.
Minister Poots said “Breastfeeding promotes health, prevents disease and helps contribute to reducing health inequalities. The challenge is to encourage more parents to choose breastfeeding for their children and to ensure that they are supported to do so.”
The Minister continued: “The Strategy’s vision is to provide babies with a good start in life by ensuring breastfeeding is the norm. Everyone has a role to play in this – from parents to health professionals, to businesses and the public. The Strategy provides for the introduction of legislation to strengthen support for breastfeeding here”.
Janet Calvert, the Regional Breastfeeding Lead at the PHA said: “Breastfeeding gives babies a great start in life and a mother’s milk is the healthier choice for mums and their babies. Breastfeeding helps to support infant wellbeing by establishing a close and loving relationship between mother and baby, which in turn promotes and supports positive parent-child relationships.
“There are significant health benefits from breastfeeding to both mother and baby. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of common childhood illnesses such as gastroenteritis, and chest, ear and urinary tract infections. Long term protective effects include a reduction in childhood obesity and diabetes. There are also benefits to mum and mothers who breastfeed their children have a reduced risk of developing ovarian, uterine and breast cancers.”
Sue Ashmore, UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Director added: “UNICEF UK is delighted to be working with the PHA to jointly host this important conference in Northern Ireland. The breastfeeding strategy is an excellent step forward and we hope that this conference will support everyone to implement its recommendations so that more mothers and babies can derive the profound benefits that breastfeeding brings.”
Information on breastfeeding can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/breastfeeding
Notes to the editor
1. ‘Breastfeeding – A great start: A Strategy for Northern Ireland 2013-2023’ can be accessed at http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/breastfeeding-strategy-2013.htm
2. The purpose of the Strategy is to improve the health and well-being of mothers and babies in Northern Ireland through breastfeeding.
3. The Strategy aims to protect, promote, support and normalise breastfeeding so that women are able to make informed decisions and are supported to breastfeed; infants are increasingly fed exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life, and thereafter are fed complementary foods with continued breastfeeding.
4. The Strategy has 20 strategic actions underpinning its four outcomes:
- Outcome 1: Supportive environments for breastfeeding exist throughout Northern Ireland
- Outcome 2: Health and Social Care has the necessary knowledge, skills and leadership to protect, promote, support and normalize breastfeeding;
- Outcome 3: High quality information systems in place that underpin the development of policy and programmes, and which support Strategy delivery; and
- Outcome 4: An informed and supportive public.
5. The Strategy includes an action for the introduction of legislation to strengthen support for breastfeeding. There will be a public consultation on the detail of the legislation at a future date.
6. Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) is a World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative to implement best practice in promoting breastfeeding.
7. The joint UNICEF BFI and Public Health Agency Conference is being held during Breastfeeding Awareness Week. The highlight of which is the launch of the Breastfeeding Strategy.