The new position statement from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) highlights the need for maternity units to be appropriately staffed and for sufficient investment to be made in postnatal care to enable each woman to get the support and advice she needs to make informed choices about feeding her baby.
The RCM recommends that parents choosing to formula feed their babies, whether exclusively or partially, should be given balanced and relevant information to enable them to do so safely and with support to encourage good bonding.
They also advise that breastfeeding mothers and their partners should be given information and support to help manage the physical, mental, emotional and societal challenges of breastfeeding.
Responding to the Royal College of Midwives’ position statement on infant feeding, Professor Mary Fewtrell, Nutrition Lead on the RCPCH Health Promotion Committee, said:
“Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life. However, while breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally. We know that the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world – with only 40% of babies breastfed at 6-8 weeks of age – and this shows little sign of improving.
"The reasons for this are complex and multiple. Women report difficulties in establishing breastfeeding, concerns about whether their baby is receiving enough milk and social stigma around breastfeeding in public. Some mothers cannot, or choose not to, breastfeed and we support the Royal College of Midwives’ position that this should be respected, with appropriate support and education on infant feeding provided.
"But for those who do want to breastfeed, we need to see barriers removed with mothers given support at the right time and place, as well as a culture that promotes and encourages breastfeeding as a natural and positive thing to do. That’s why the RCPCH is calling for a collective, long-term plan to change the culture of breastfeeding involving educating children at school, families and the wider public, and the provision of local breastfeeding support to new mothers in the form of evaluated, structured programmes.”