The initiative, which aims to help breastfeeding mums feel more comfortable about feeding their baby in public, now has more than 400 businesses, council facilities and local attractions signed up as members.
Businesses that have signed up to the scheme display a sticker and certificate in their premises to let mums know that they are welcome to feed in all areas and will not be asked to stop breastfeeding. Staff are also made aware that they are to be supportive of mothers on the premises.
Madeline Heaney, the PHA’s Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement in the northern area, said: “Breastfeeding in public can be a very daunting prospect so Breastfeeding Welcome Here aims to increase understanding about the importance of breast feeding as well as increasing its social acceptability by supporting mums who want, and need, to feed when out and about.
“We’re delighted that more and more companies are signing up to the initiative and showing their support as the benefits of feeding are extensive. For children, breastfeeding can reduce the overall risk of gastro-enteritis, chest, ear and kidney infections, childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed are at a generally lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.”
Despite 92% of people here agreeing that breastfeeding is normal, Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK and one of the lowest in Europe. Sixty-four per cent of mothers start breastfeeding compared with 81% in the rest of the UK, and by six weeks of age this reduces to 33% in Northern Ireland, compared with 55% in the rest of the UK.
Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, added: “We are pleased to be supporting the PHA’s Breastfeeding Welcome Here scheme. The airport has thousands of families pass through its buildings every week and through this scheme we have shown our commitment to being a breastfeeding-friendly and family-friendly venue, helping mums feel more comfortable doing something which in actual fact should be viewed as perfectly normal.”
For a full list of members of Breastfeeding Welcome Here and tips and advice on feeding, visit the PHA website www.breastfedbabies.org
Notes to the editor
Breastfeeding is an important public health issue as it can make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of both mother and child. Research evidence shows that breastfeeding provides many long-term benefits.
The DHSSPS Strategy ‘Breastfeeding – A Great Start a Strategy for Northern Ireland 2013-2023’ includes key strategic outcomes which state that: “Supportive environments for breastfeeding exist throughout Northern Ireland” and “Government Departments and statutory bodies recognise the value of breastfeeding”. This can be found at https://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/publications/breastfeeding-strategy
Statistics on attitudes to breastfeeding can be found in the 2014/15 Health Survey for Northern Ireland at http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news-dhssps-111115-health-survey-northern