East Antrim MLA and UUP Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs has given his encouragement and support for the second Breastival event in NI and highlighted the health benefits from breast feeding, for mother and child at the event where Sammy Wilsons views were discounted, even by his party colleges.
Speaking from the panel in Belfast, Roy Beggs MLA said “The World Health Organisation (WHO) have expressed concern at the low rates of breastfeeding in Europe which was adversely affecting health. There seems to be a societal lack of awareness that breast feeding has been scientifically proven to benefit both the mother and child. As well as increasing bonding between mother and child, breastmilk contains important antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergies, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes which are absent from Formula milk. Benefits for breastfed infants include reduced risk of infections, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, in addition to a reduced likelihood of allergies. It is important that we as a society try to encourage and support mums who breast feed. Long term health benefits for mothers include reduced risks for cancer and obesity. “
Research by UNICEF shows that the United Kingdom has the second lowest rate of breastfeeding in Europe. Within the UK, Northern Ireland had the lowest breastfeeding initiation rate at 64%, compared to 71% in Wales, 74% in Scotland and 83% in England. Scandinavian countries are in the high 90% by comparison.
Roy Beggs said “More needs to be done to set out the benefits of breast milk to expectant mothers. More support is needed in Hospital with ongoing support and encouragement at home are vital to improve take up rates. It is important for husbands and partners to recognise the benefits of breast feeding so that they too are supportive. There needs to be greater awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and to normalise breastfeeding in the 21st century, with all the health benefits.”
This was the second Breastival event, organised to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. Event attendees stated that the event was set up “last year as a reaction to Sammy Wilson’s comments and because we wanted to do something more than the online support groups.” In 2016, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson inexplicably labelled breastfeeding as “exhibitionism”.