WITH breastfeeding rates in the Strabane area well below the Northern Ireland average, Strabane Sure Start have unveiled a new initiative in the hope of improving uptake over the next three years.
As part of this, the local group will be applying for Unicef’s Baby Friendly initiative through a three-year accreditation process.
Sure Start manager, Sharon Hasson explained: “It is hoped this will make a real difference in equipping our staff with the confidence and skills to initiate and change conversations about breastfeeding and relationship building with parents right from the ante-natal stage.
“We want to ensure all mothers and babies receive the very best possible care, at a stage in their lives when the support and information we provide can have a profound effect on their future health and development.
“Breast milk contains antibodies, hormones and stem cells, which babies needs in their first six months. This natural milk has all the nutrients for babies healthy development. Breastfeeding for even a few days or weeks provides health benefits for babies and also for mums.”
Antibodies in breast milk stimulate your baby’s immune system and help protect them from infection and other illnesses including stomach infections, vomiting and diarrhoea, ear and chest infections, kidney infections, cow's milk allergy, asthma and eczema, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and childhood diabetes.
Children and adults breastfed as babies are less likely to develop obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Sharon added: “Giving your baby breast milk exclusively for their first six months is the healthiest start to their life. After six months, you can continue to breastfeed and give certain foods and drinks for as long as you and your baby like.
“Expectant parents and new parents are welcome to drop into our Breastfeeding Support Group which meets every Wednesday morning from 10am to 11.30am in the main Sure Start Centre, Melmount Road. Creche places are available for other children but need to be booked in advance.
“Support can also be provided through home visits if required by ringing the centre on 02871 885504 and asking for Victoria or by consulting with your community midwife and health visitor.”
A group of ‘Peer Support’ mothers have recently completed the UNICEF Peer Support Training which is run through the Western Health and Social Care Trust by the Public Health Agency.
The mums will now become part of a voluntary support network for breastfeeding mums in the local area which is co-ordinated by Teresa McPhilemy. They have all breastfed their own babies and attended the Breastfeeding Support Group in Sure Start, offering their time to support mums in order to help increase the number of mums who breastfeed their babies in the local area and raise awareness of the support that is available from Sure Start and local health services