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More NI mums breastfeeding

Figures show that 47% of mums were breastfeeding at discharge in 2016/17. Credit: PA

More mothers in Northern Ireland are choosing to breastfeed, according to the Public Health Agency.

The figures were released as part of World Breastfeeding Week which aims to highlight the health benefits of breastfeeding and its importance to both mum and baby.

In 2016/17, statistics showed that 47% of babies were breastfed when they were discharged, in comparison to 45.4% the previous year.

The statistics also showed that more mums continued to breastfeed here in the first weeks and months after giving birth.

Mary Black, Assistant Director for Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement at the PHA, said: “Quite simply, mother’s milk is the healthier choice for you and your baby. So when you decide to breastfeed, you’re giving your baby a wonderful start in life.'

Breastfeeding networks here help to encourage mums through peer-support. Credit: PA

Breastfeeding can help protect babies against a wide range of serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as asthma,cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life.

– Mary Black, PHA

According to the agency, breastmilk contains at least 34 ingredients not found in usual formulas.

'Any period of breastfeeding at all, however short, will benefit you and your baby,' said Ms Black.

Northern Ireland was the first region in the UK to have all maternity units recognised as 'Baby Friendly' by UNICEF.

To have this status, maternity units and healthcare facilities were accessed for standards of maternity, neonatal, health visiting and Sure Start services.

Northern Ireland also has a breastfeeding peer support network, where mums who have breastfed or are currently breastfeeding are on-hand to give practical support and encouragement for others.

2015/16 BREASTFEEDING FIGURES (PHA)

  • DISCHARGE: 45.4% babies breastfed (total or partial)
  • 6 WEEKS: 28.4%
  • 3 MONTHS: 22.3%
  • 6 MONTHS: 14.5%
  • 12 MONTHS: 8.1%