Belfast Telegraph

Breastfeeding: What are the health benefits for baby and mum?

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has launched a new campaign highlighting the health benefits of breastfeeding and supporting mums to feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public.

Northern Ireland has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the UK therefore the Not Sorry Mums campaign aims to encourage women to breastfeed and highlights how mothers never have to apologise for feeding their baby in public.

Janet Calvert, Regional Breastfeeding Lead for the PHA, said: “Information and support is key to helping mums to breastfeed and hearing positive stories of others’ experiences can add that extra bit of encouragement that mums need.

“For many mums getting started, breastfeeding isn’t easy. Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK and that is why reassurance and encouragement from others is so important.”

Historically we know that approximately 64% of mothers in Northern Ireland start breastfeeding at the time of birth, compared with 83% in England, 74% in Scotland and 71% in Wales. 

However, figures from the Northern Ireland Child Health System tell us that in Northern Ireland the initial decision to breastfeed declines with only 45% breastfeeding at discharge from hospital, at 6 weeks of age this is further reduced to 28% and again at 6 months only 14% are still having any breastmilk.

Janet continued “Breastfeeding has scientifically proven health benefits for both baby and mum due to special components in breastmilk, which boost the immune system. Any amount of breastfeeding helps protect the baby but the longer you do it, the greater the benefits.”

Breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of:

  • serious stomach and chest infections
  • childhood leukemia
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • ear infections in the first two years

Breastfeeding increases a child’s intelligence and research also suggests it may even reduce the risk of childhood diabetes and obesity.

For mum breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The longer a baby is breastfed the stronger the protection against illness. It is recommended that babies are breastfed for the first 6 months, and then start solid foods at around six months, with breastfeeding continuing until the age of a year or more.

Another benefit of breastfeeding is that it can be done anywhere and at any-time. It’s free and it’s natural.


Emma Mc Carthy, who features in the Not Sorry Mums campaign said: “Breastfeeding is really convenient, but that is something I think people don’t consider. They think it’s a lot of hard work. At the beginning, it certainly is, and you could feel like you’re feeding all day for the first six to eight weeks but that changes and that’s something I think that people should realise.” 

Visit to find out more about the benefits of breastfeeding and the support available or view the interactive map to find breastfeeding support groups in your area.

You can also join the conversation online using #NotSorryMums

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