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Early years

12th Jun 2018

Midwives ordered to respect new mums who decide to bottle feed

Trine Jensen-Burke

Breast is best is a slogan much used in order to try to convince more new mums to breastfeed their babies. 

And it is easy to understand the push from midwives who know just how healthy and beneficial breastmilk is to newborns, especially when you take into account that the UK and Ireland have extremely low rates of breastfeeding compared to, say, the Scandinavian countries, where over 90 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life.

However, midwives in the UK are now being ordered to rememner that it is the women herself who decides whether or not to breastfeed her baby, and that whatever her choice, it must be respected.

The Royal College of Midwives’ new position statement makes it explicitly clear that women should be supported if, after being given advice, information and support, they opt to bottle feed using formula milk.

Although breast is best, often some women struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding, says the RCM.

An informed choice, they say, must be promoted.

The National Childbirth Trust says women can experience unacceptable levels of pressure however they feed their babies – from family and friends, as well as from people they hardly know.

Mothers who breastfeed their babies often feel pressurised and constrained about whether, where, how often, and how long they breastfeed. Similarly, mothers who use formula milk often feel judged or guilty too, particularly – but not only – if they planned to breastfeed.

Experts, of course, recommend, whenever possible, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, and breastfeeding should continue for up to two years alongside introducing solid foods.

But, ultimately, this should be the woman’s choice, says the RCM.

“The RCM believes that women should be at the centre of their own care and as with other areas of maternity care, midwives and maternity support workers should promote informed choice, says Chief Executive Gill Walton in a statement.

“If, after being given appropriate information, advice and support on breastfeeding, a woman chooses not to do so, or to give formula as well as breastfeeding, her choice must be respected.

“We recognise that some women cannot or do not wish to breastfeed and rely on formula milk. They must be given all the advice and support they need on safe preparation of bottles and responsive feeding to develop a close and loving bond with their baby.”

What was YOUR experience, mama? Did you feel pressurised or shamed in one way or another over your choice of feeding? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @Herfamilydotie