Northern Ireland news

NI has the most 'baby friendly hospitals'

A total of nine Northern Ireland hospitals have been awarded the UNICEF baby friendly initiative
Andrea McKernon

NORTHERN Ireland hospitals are now the most baby friendly after three were awarded the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) Award.

Causeway Hospital, Craigavon Area Hospital and the Ulster Hospital have joined six other maternity units in achieving the award. It means that 93 per cent of births in Northern Ireland take place in a UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) BFI hospital – the highest rate of any region in the UK.

The scheme, say officials, is particularly important as breastfeeding rates are lower in Northern Ireland than in parts of Britain. Around 64 per cent of mothers in the north start breastfeeding, compared with 83 per cent in England, 74 per in Scotland and 71 per cent in Wales. That figure falls to 33 per cent breastfeeding at six weeks and 16 per cent at six months.

Janet Calvert, Regional Breastfeeding Lead for the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: "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.

"We also know that breastfeeding can reduce the mother’s risk of some cancers. Mums might also be interested in hearing that breastfeeding can also be so rewarding, and often easier particular at night and when travelling.

“However, a mother chooses to feed her baby, in a baby friendly maternity service she will be supported to form a strong loving relationship with her newborn, through enjoying skin-to-skin contact and understanding how her baby communicates with her.

"We are not complacent as we recognise that we have much more to do, nevertheless these awards recognise the real improvements that have been made through the hard work and commitment of staff," she said.

The Baby Friendly Initiative was set up by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

For more information, advice and breastfeeding support, visit the Public Health Agency’s breastfeeding website at www.breastfedbabies.org

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