World Breastfeeding Week highlights the importance of supporting breastfeeding mothers on their journey

WBW 22

Monday 1 August marked the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week and this year’s theme ‘Educate and Support’ aims to encourage everyone to support breastfeeding mothers, babies, and their families by creating breastfeeding-friendly environments.

Dr Hannah Dearie, Senior Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Officer with PHA, said: “Showing increased support for breastfeeding mums is really important, as rates of breastfeeding in Northern Ireland lag behind other countries.

“New Mums often need information and support to start breastfeeding in the first few days after birth and to continue breastfeeding when they are discharged from hospital.  Creating supportive environments for breastfeeding Mums makes continuing to breastfeed more likely. 

“World Breastfeeding Week which also coincides with Breastival 2022, provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the range of services that are available to support individuals on their breastfeeding journey." 

Support to help mothers get started with breastfeeding can be crucial and all maternity units in Northern Ireland have been accredited as 'Baby Friendly' by the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative.

Once mothers and their babies leave hospital, support is available from their community midwife and health visitor.  Community based resources and facilities are key to providing ongoing support to breast feeding mothers. There are more than 100 breastfeeding support groups across Northern Ireland, mothers can avail of the service provided by peer support volunteers, who are mums who have breastfed and provide mother-to-mother support to those on their breastfeeding journey, breastfeeding counsellors who have been trained to provide extra support if needed and specialist support services within each Health and Social Care Trust.

The PHA also operates a Breastfeeding welcome here scheme in Northern Ireland. This helps show community support for breastfeeding, with businesses, council facilities and popular tourist attractions signed up to show their support for breastfeeding mums. The venues have pledged to welcome breastfeeding mothers and agreed to display a pink sticker and certificate which shows they are members of the scheme and mothers are welcome to breast feed their baby their, with staff trained to be supportive of mothers on the premises. This can often take the pressure off a mother by showing this is a friendly environment where the needs of a breastfeeding mum will be met.

Dr. Hannah Dearie concluded: “Any breastfeeding, even for a short time, is beneficial for you and your baby. When fathers, partners, families, workplaces, and communities show their support, mums are more likely to start breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding for longer. Breastfeeding is normal, no matter where it happens, and this is something that we want to see happen more often."

“We all have a role in supporting breastfeeding mums – whether that is through encouragement to a partner, friend, sister, or daughter who is feeding, bringing them a drink of water or a cup of tea, preparing meals, doing housework, or protecting them from others’ negativity towards breastfeeding, these things all mean a lot to a mum who can then get on with feeding their baby.”

Northern Ireland’s Chief Nursing Officer, Maria McIlgorm, commented “I am delighted to support this World Breastfeeding Week and the Breastival 2022 campaign.  There are well recognized benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and the new-born, and because of this, the World Health Organization recommends that new-borns are exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months of life. Evidence clearly articulates that breastfeeding supports optimal short and long-term health for new-borns, whilst also impacting positively on maternal health. Midwives, health visitors and others are there to facilitate and create a supportive, informed environment for parents, to empower a woman's decision to breastfeed”. 

She went on “Since rates of breastfeeding in Northern Ireland do lag behind other regions of the UK, I welcome initiatives such as Breastival 2022 which will enable us to work in partnership with parents, and support new mothers, while ensuring that collectively, an environment is created where breastfeeding is accepted, and indeed welcomed, across society here. Our mothers and new-borns deserve no less”. 

Whether you need support with breastfeeding or you want to know how you can help support a friend, a colleague or family member on their breastfeeding journey, the first step is simple, visit the PHA's website, for information on all types of support available.

Notes to the editor

Notes to the Editor

In support of the Northern Ireland Breastfeeding Strategy 'Breastfeeding A Great Start' the PHA supports a range of projects. These include: achieving and sustaining UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards in maternity and community settings; training of health professionals and support workers; development of specialist midwifery and neonatal breastfeeding posts within Trusts; mother to mother peer support; La Leche League and NCT voluntary breastfeeding support; Tiny Life Breastpump Loan services and Breastival.