Public buildings in Newry, Mourne and Down District look set to become ‘welcome’ areas for breastfeeding mums.
Sixteen public buildings in council ownership will be signed up to a ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ initiative in the first phase.
Training would be given to staff as part of the process, which is in response to the low level of facilities available for mothers who wish to breastfeed babies.
The proposal to sign up goes before Monday’s meeting of the active and healthy communities committee.
Supported by the Public Health Agency, it is designed to make it easier for mums to recognise places where they can breastfeed their babies when out and about.
Northern Ireland actually has the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe – with 28 per cent breastfeeding at six weeks and 14 per cent at six months.
Councillors, at the meeting on Monday, will be told of an identified “low number of organisations and businesses” in the district supporting the scheme.
Indeed, only 43 are signed up – and none of these are council-owned.
But all that is expected to change.
A report by officials to committee states: “Supporting the scheme will allow the proposed council buildings to be supportive environments that will facilitate mothers to breastfeed their children in surroundings conducive to breastfeeding with confidence and without intrusion which is an outcome of the strategy.”
Research conducted by NMD Council officers with local breastfeeding mothers has shown a “definite need” for more businesses and organisations to join the Breastfeeding Welcome Here scheme.
The first 16 buildings proposed by council are Monaghan Row, Newry Leisure Centre, Down Leisure Centre, Downshire Civic Centre, Kilkeel Leisure Centre, Newcastle Centre, Newry Town Hall, Bagenals Castle in Newry, Warrenpoint Town Hall, Down Arts Centre, Ballymote Sports and Wellbeing Centre, Down County Museum, St Patrick Centre, Greenbank Council Officers, Newry Art Centre and Newry Market.
Councillors have been told by taking this decision, they would then be in a position to promote the uptake to others within the district.
The report outlines the process, which begins with training being given by the Public Health Agency to ensure staff understand the scheme.
It adds: “This information must then be passed on to all staff members to ensure that everyone is aware of the scheme and to ensure that they are supportive of breastfeeding mothers within council buildings.”
Once training has been completed a sticker will be provided by Public Health Agency which will be clearly displayed in a public place in the buildings involved.
The buildings will then be listed on the Breastfeeding Welcome Here website, which includes an interactive map to show all those which are signed up.