Breastfeeding is welcome here, says Stormont, in drive to make mums feel 'perfectly normal'
Stormont has declared that breastfeeding is welcome in Parliament Buildings.
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.
So in a bid to to make breastfeeding mums feel comfortable about feeding their baby in public, the Northern Ireland Assembly has signed up to the Public Health Agency’s "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" scheme.
It will display a sticker and certificate to let mums know they are welcome to feed in all areas and will not be asked to stop breastfeeding.
Staff are also told to be supportive of mothers on the premises.
Janet Calvert of the agency said: “Breastfeeding in public places can be a daunting prospect, especially for first-time mums. Breastfeeding Welcome Here aims to increase the social acceptability of breastfeeding in public by supporting mums who want, and need, to feed when out and about.
“We, and those organisations signed up to it, are helping mums feel more comfortable doing something which in actual fact should be viewed as perfectly normal and we are delighted that the Parliament Buildings has joined Breastfeeding Welcome Here.”
More than 400 businesses, council facilities and popular local attractions have joined the scheme.
Assembly Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, said: "Parliament Buildings welcomes around 80,000 visitors through its doors each year. It is important that we are able to demonstrate respect to those we represent by providing a friendly and welcoming visiting environment and experience for all.
"The fact that the Assembly has signed up to support the Breastfeeding Welcome Here scheme is another symbol of that."
The Public Health Agency says the evidence shows breastfeeding provides many long-term benefits for both mother and child.
For children, it reduces the overall risk of gastro-enteritis, chest, ear and kidney infections, childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, childhood cancer and sudden infant death syndrome.
Mothers who breastfeed are at a generally lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
For a full list of members of Breastfeeding Welcome Here and tips and advice on feeding, visit the PHA website.