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North Wales businesses encouraged to help breastfeeding mothers and babies thrive

BUSINESSES ACROSS North Wales are being urged to support breastfeeding by providing safe and welcoming spaces for mothers and babies as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease.

Mum Racheal Turpin plays with her son Finley

Dozens of cafes, restaurants, shops, hairdressers and public services have already committed to the Breastfeeding Welcome initative, which allows businesses to show their support.

But mums, peer supporters and public health experts from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board have used World Breastfeeding Week to call for more to join the scheme.

They say encouraging firms to enrol will help mothers feed their babies confidently while out and about – especially following difficult months of isolating lockdown and distancing rules.

Racheal Turpin gave birth to son Finley in November, and is full of praise for the support she received from midwives, health visitors and breastfeeding networks as she fed her first child.

The 33-year-old from Cefn-Y-Bedd says she is proud of what she has achieved, and would choose to buy from a business which supports Breastfeeding Welcome.

“I’m someone who is quite reserved, so I wouldn’t want to make a song and dance about it – but if I knew a company was part of the Breastfeeding Welcome scheme then it would sway me about where I chose to go for a coffee or a meal,” Racheal said.

“It would be wonderful to know that a place was welcoming, or if it had facilities like a room where you can go to breastfeed if you needed to.”

Positive experiences

Breastfeeding peer supporter Amy Northage-Milburn holding her youngest son Atlas

Amy Northage-Milburn (35) is one of around 20 active volunteer peer supporters trained to help new mums as part of the Breastfeeding Friends networks supported by the health board.

The mother-of-six, from Holyhead, has run online groups during the pandemic but is looking forward to getting back to delivering support in-person.

“We know that mums are really reassured by the Breastfeeding Welcome scheme, and we do get questions about places where people have had positive experiences of breastfeeding,” Amy said.

“Having somewhere you can go – where you know that businesses are positive about breastfeeding – makes it so much easier and can just release that anxiety.

“That confidence is a big thing for new mothers. If mums feel more confident about feeding in public – if they know that they can – then that will support the breastfeeding rates across North Wales.”

In the UK, four out of five mothers begin breastfeeding at birth, but there is a rapid decline in the number sustaining breastfeeding in the following weeks. Only around one per cent of babies are exclusively breastfed at six months. 

Share in the responsibility

Betsi Cadwaladr’s Strategic Plan for Infant Feeding commits the health board to helping parents make informed choices about nutrition during their child’s early years, and supporting more mums to start and continue breastfeeding.

Teresa Owen, Executive Director of Public Health at Betsi Cadwaladr, said: “Breastfeeding significantly improves the health and wellbeing of infants, children and their mothers.

“But some mums do find it challenging, particularly when they are away from home – so this World Breastfeeding Week we’re asking businesses to consider how they can share in the responsibility to support breastfeeding by providing safe spaces and joining our Breastfeeding Welcome scheme.

“We also appeal to responsible employers to support mothers to continue to breastfeed when they return to the workplace.

“They can do this in a number of ways: by considering a more flexible pattern of working hours or allowing breaks for breastfeeding or expressing, by providing a comfortable private room for mums to use, and by offering a fridge to store milk.”

World Breastfeeding Week runs from August 1 to August 7, and aims to raise awareness of the positive health and wellbeing outcomes of supporting mothers to breastfeed. This year, the international event focuses on our shared responsibility to protect and promote breastfeeding.