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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK
Mothers encouraged to breastfeed
Breastfeeding baby
People in NI feel breastfeeding should not be done in public
Making breastfeeding socially acceptable in Northern Ireland is the primary aim of a new public information campaign.

The campaign also hopes to raise public awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.

Research shows that more than one third of people in the province consider breastfeeding to be embarrassing, and over half feel breastfeeding should not be seen in public.

Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the UK and one of the lowest in Europe.

On Wednesday, Janet Calvert, Regional Breastfeeding Coordinator with the Health Promotion Agency said despite negative attitudes, many mothers were keen to breastfeed their babies.

"Not only is it the best food a baby can get, it is also good for mum too," she said.

We hope that by providing this information people will realise that a mother who breastfeeds her baby is making a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of society
Janet Calvert
Health Promotion Agency

"However, research also shows that while some know the health benefits of breastfeeding, there is still only a vague awareness among the public, including young mums-to-be, about how good this type of feeding is for both mum and baby."

Among the benefits for mother are a reduced risk of certain cancers and osteoporosis, while breastfed babies are less likely to develop childhood obesity and diabetes and have a reduced risk of developing ear, chest and urinary infections.

"Our primary target group includes all women of child bearing age, especially those young women who are least likely to breastfeed and the second target group is the general public - particularly partners and family members of potential mums," added Ms Calvert.

"We hope that by providing this information people will realise that a mother who breastfeeds her baby is making a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of society."

Targeted

The campaign, which includes a mix of television, radio and bus advertising as well as support materials in health service facilities, informs of the benefits of breastfeeding and encourages people to be supportive of women wishing to breastfeed their babies in public.

Business people are also being targeted, as a recent survey suggested that restaurant, shop and café owners remained reluctant to welcome breastfeeding mothers into their premises.

"On a positive note, much work has already been undertaken within the health, community and voluntary sectors here," added Janet.

"However we still have a long way to go. It is hoped that this mass media campaign will get the message across to everyone in Northern Ireland that breastfeeding is good for baby - good for mum."


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