Belfast Telegraph

Cafes, libraries and church halls back breastfeeding in Northern Ireland

By Jill Goligher

Venues across Northern Ireland are being encouraged to sign up to a scheme that encourages breastfeeding.

Showing their support with a pink sticker, Belfast art centre The MAC has become the 500th member of Breastfeeding Welcome Here - a UK-wide campaign aimed at encouraging a variety of venues to back breastfeeding.

So far the list of businesses that have signed up include cafes, libraries and church halls.

The Department of Health revealed that NI's breastfeeding rates have remained static for several years.

According to Department figures, mothers in Northern Ireland who choose to breastfeed do so for a shorter period of time than breastfeeding mothers elsewhere in the UK.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has introduced The Breastfeeding Welcome Here initiative which is designed to show community support for breastfeeding mothers. The scheme now has 500 venues providing supportive environments for breastfeeding mothers

The campaign has emphasised that this support is fundamental before the baby is born and in the in the early days of motherhood, so new mothers can build their confidence and stay with their decision to breastfeed.

Jane Calvert of the PHA has said that World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7 ) offers an important opportunity to get the message across.

"Breastfeeding is the best start in life," she said.

"Showing increased support for breastfeeding mums is really important, as Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK and one of the lowest rates in Europe.

"We know that for many mums, getting started isn't easy."

Former health minister Michelle O'Neill vowed to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to protect mothers who breastfeed in public.

Speaking at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed progress with the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Breastfeeding Welcome Here.

“Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organisation. It is a perfectly natural thing to do with proven health benefits for both mothers and their babies.

“Unfortunately here in the north of Ireland we have one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the European Union.

“We need to continue to promote and normalise breastfeeding and remove the social stigma that is attached to breastfeeding, particularly in relation to breastfeeding in public places.

“While the Breastfeeding Welcome Here scheme is an important step in supporting breastfeeding mothers we also need the implementation of breastfeeding legislation that my colleague, former Health Minister Michelle O’Neill, tasked her department to develop.

"Breastfeeding legislation would ensure breastfeeding mothers have the right to feed their children with confidence and without interruption in a public place."

A list of scheme members can be found on the BreastFedBabies website.

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