BREASTFEEDING rates in the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas are below the Northern Ireland average.
Only 42.6 per cent of mothers were breastfeeding by the time they were discharged from hospital compared with 44.9 per cent Province-wide.
The figures given to the MAIL by the Public Health Agency uses 2010 data from the Northern Ireland Child Health System.
It says that support for breastfeeding has grown, with rates at birth increasing from 36 per cent to 64 per cent over the past two decades.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated each year from August 1 to 7 in more than 170 countries including Northern Ireland.
Janet Calvert, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager and Lead for Breastfeeding with the PHA, said that breastfeeding gives a child the best possible start in life and babies have better protection against certain illnesses the longer it continues.
Mother-to-mother peer support programmes are also in place in many areas and are working with expectant and new mothers to help them breastfeed for longer.
Janet said there has been an encouraging increase in the percentage of mothers who breastfeed in Northern Ireland. “However, we also know that we need to do more to make sure that the environment is made supportive for breastfeeding, from before a baby is born right through the early years.
The figures also indicate that we need to target breastfeeding support to improve our lower breastfeeding rates in some groups such as young mothers and women on lower incomes, as figures suggest that twice as many mothers over the age of 20 will breastfeed compared with those under age 20. The PHA welcomes the current consultation on the DHSSPS Ten Year Breastfeeding Strategy for Northern Ireland that will aim to increase breastfeeding rates,” she added.
There are two breastfeeding support groups in the area. On the first and third Thursday of every month from 10:30am to noon, mums meet in Cookstown Primary School and this is run by GOLD.
Alternatively south Derry mums meet at the Mid-Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt every Tuesday from 10.30am to noon.