NI: Plan to give legal protection to breastfeeding mothers

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has unveiled legislative proposals to protect mothers who breastfeed their children in a public place.

Laws protecting breastfeeding are already in place across Great Britain and Ireland.

However, the legislation is now unlikely to be advanced until after fresh elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, following the surprise resignation yesterday of the deputy First Minister.

Speaking yesterday, Ms O’Neill said: “I have listened to mothers and am convinced that specific legislation is a pro-active and necessary approach to ensure that the rights of mothers and their children are fully protected. It will ensure that breast and bottle-feeding mothers are given equal access to feed their children with confidence and without interruption in a public place.

“My Department’s Breastfeeding Strategy 2013-2023, includes a strategic action to introduce legislation to support and protect breastfeeding infants and their mothers in public places. I intend to take this forward and I aim to do it as quickly as possible. The details of this legislation will be consulted upon as soon practicable and I hope to introduce this to the Assembly at the earliest possible date.”

Breastfeeding rates in Northern Ireland have remained static over the past number of years.

Ms O’Neill said the reasons why women do not breastfeed “are varied and complex”.

She added: “This legislation will contribute to increasing public tolerance and acceptability of breastfeeding, as part of a range of activities to improve our breastfeeding rates.”

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