Breastfeeding mums have nothing to be sorry for – quite the contrary in fact

Belfast mother of two Emma McCarthy features in the Public Health Agency’s #NotSorryMums breastfeeding awareness campaign

FOR many mums, getting started breastfeeding isn’t easy and that was the case for Belfast mum Emma McCarthy with her first child. However, when the second came along she had a completely different experience.

Emma has been breastfeeding 11-month-old Shannon from birth; with her son Odhrán, now aged four, she had a rocky beginning.

“I was a bit apprehensive at the start. With Odhrán, I just thought if you wanted to breastfeed, you breastfed, so I didn’t buy a bottle, I didn’t buy a steriliser and then when I couldn’t do it I kind of felt a bit guilty. Like, ‘Why can I not do this? How is this not working for us?’” Emma said.

“So with Shannon I wanted to try again but I was a bit afraid that it mightn’t work again. But she has taken to it like a duck to water. I haven’t had any issues whatsoever. I just don’t think anything would stop that girl getting to her milk.”

Northern Ireland has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the UK, and Emma features in the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) new campaign #NotSorryMums which aims to encourage women to breastfeed and highlights how mothers never have to apologise for feeding their baby in public.

“I would just say ‘give it a go’," Emma says. Don’t be afraid of feeding outside the house. I was at the start. For a lot of weeks I put off going out. I planned outings around when she might need fed. But now I actually love feeding outside because I’ve got so many positive comments and nice smiles and people coming over just to say ‘You’re doing great there’ or people bringing you a drink of water when you’re feeding.

“So don’t feel apprehensive. You’ll get a lot more positive comments than you will negative, so just go with it because you’re doing the best thing you can for your baby.”

Many mums need help and advice when getting started breastfeeding – the PHA’s website has all you need to know.

Support for mums is also crucial and the website has information on mother-to-mother support which is available from breastfeeding support groups and peer support volunteers. Information for partners and families who can offer support to mothers, and information highlighting what dads need to know, offering practical advice and tips on how they can help their partner, is also available.

“For many mums, getting started breastfeeding isn’t easy and that is why reassurance and encouragement from others is so important," says Mary Black, assistant director for health and social wellbeing improvement at the PHA. “Support is key and encouragement within the family and from the wider community can really make a difference.

“This campaign, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, shows mums and women who may become mums in future, that breastfeeding their baby, no matter where they are, is normal and nothing to say sorry for.”

There are many health benefits associated with breastfeeding; for example, it reduces a baby’s risk of serious stomach and chest infections and reduces mum’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Emma also said it has other practical benefits.

“It is really convenient, but that is something I think people don’t consider about breastfeeding. They think that it is a lot of hard work, and at the beginning it certainly is and you could feel like you’re feeding all day for around the first six to eight weeks, but that changes and I think that’s something people should realise.”

:: Join the conversation online using #NotSorryMums and visit for more information about the Public Health Agency’s campaign.

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