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Minister publishes review of breast-feeding strategy

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Health Minister has published a review of the Breast-feeding Strategy for Northern Ireland.

Speaking during breast-feeding awareness week, Michael McGimpsey said: “The review highlights the significant progress that has been made to promote and support breast-feeding. Breast-feeding rates here show an upward trend, with 63% of mothers’ breast-feeding at birth.

“However, we still have the lowest rate of breast-feeding across the UK. I would like to see further improvement, as we know that breast milk gives babies all the nutrients they need for the first six months of life and helps protect them from infection and diseases. It also reduces mothers' chances of getting certain diseases later in life.

“My Department is developing an updated Breastfeeding Strategy, to build on the excellent progress that has already taken place, which will enable the continued commitment to promote, support, and protect breast-feeding in Northern Ireland”.

Notes to editors:

1. The Review of the Breast-feeding Strategy for Northern Ireland 1999 can be found online. It reports on the progress made against the Strategy’s aim to promote and support breast-feeding and its recommendations for areas of action.

2. The Review of the Breast-feeding Strategy 1999 was conducted by a multi-sectoral Project Management Group jointly facilitated by the DHSSPS and the Public Health Agency.

3. Key successes of the Breast-feeding Strategy 1999 include:

  • the appointment of a Regional Breast-feeding Co-ordinator since 2002, providing support in implementing the Breast-feeding Strategy;
  • implementation towards the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly best practice standards in hospital and community Trusts, resulting in 56% of births in Northern Ireland in Baby Friendly hospitals – the highest percentage of births across the UK countries;
  • the introduction of mother peer support programmes to support women in their own communities;
  • widespread support from local councils and business for the “Breast-feeding Welcome Here” Scheme;
  • the establishment of the Human Milk Bank providing donor milk to babies, including special needs babies, across Ireland; and
  • public information campaigns and a range of booklets for both health professionals and the public.

4. The Infant Feeding Survey shows that initial incidence of breast-feeding in Northern Ireland has increased from 54% in 2000 to 63% in 2005. While NI still has a lower initiation breastfeeding rate than the rest of the UK, the increase for initiation breastfeeding rates between 2000 and 2005 was greater in NI than anywhere else in the UK. The next Infant Feeding Survey is scheduled to take place during 2010.

5. Baby Friendly Initiative – is a World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative to implement best practice in promoting breastfeeding.

6. Media queries to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or out of hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.