Breastfed babies and their mums get little help from new friends
Peer support boosting numbers nourishing newborns the natural way Lisa Taylor with Leanne Quigley and baby Elsa
New mums are being encouraged to be aware of a peer support network across Northern Ireland offering help to raise the number of babies who are breastfed.
Today is the start of World Breastfeeding Week, which runs until August 7, and the role of the peer support scheme is being highlighted.
Breastfeeding rates are lower in Northern Ireland than in Britain, with 64% of mothers here breastfeeding initially.
This is compared with the UK average of 81%.
In Northern Ireland, the number of babies being breastfed drops further to 33% at six weeks and 16% at six months.
But the peer support scheme could be key to helping more mothers breastfeed beyond the first few weeks of birth.
Breastfeeding peer supporters are women who have breastfed their own baby and who have undergone training to help them support others. They can listen to any concerns a mother may have about feeding her baby and will provide extra support and encouragement.
Lisa Taylor, a peer supporter from the Western Health and Social Care Trust area of Ballykelly, has provided peer support in both hospital and community settings.
She currently provides help at the Ballykelly Kings Lane Community Centre and said all new mothers were welcome at local breastfeeding groups.
"We find that some new mums need support with breastfeeding and can really benefit from talking to someone who has also breastfed and who can listen to any concerns she may have," she said.
Leanne Quigley, mum to 10- week-old Elsa, said she would encourage other mothers who have worries about breastfeeding to contact local groups.
"I found it really useful to be able to speak to Lisa as she really understands what those early days are like. She also knows a lot about breastfeeding and what to expect, and I felt really reassured after I spoke to her," she said.
Janet Calvert, the Public Health Agency's regional breastfeeding lead, said: "While breastfeeding advice and support is available to new mums in hospital and afterwards at home through health visitors and midwives, it can be a challenge to continue breastfeeding as families readjust to everyday life in the weeks and months after the birth of a baby.
"This is when contact with someone who has been there and done that can be a real help."
Research shows that breastfed babies statistically tend to be healthier than bottle-fed babies and have a generally lower risk of ear, chest, stomach, kidney and urinary infections.
They also have a lower risk of severe asthma and eczema, childhood diabetes and obesity and sudden infant death (cot death).
For more information on all peer support available check the PHA booklet 'Off to a Good Start' on page 55: www.bit.ly/offtoagoodstart.