The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has updated its official position on breastfeeding and says mothers who choose not to breastfeed should be ‘respected.’
In its new position statement it says: “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.”
The college has, for many years, insisted that women who have chosen to artificially feed their babies should have their decision respected but now they want that approach to be more prominent.
The RCM’s main ‘Breast is Best’ position has not changed. In the position statement, it says that “exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life is the most appropriate method of infant feeding”.
It also suggests that breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary foods for up to two years, in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.
Gill Walton, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives said: “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.”
The change in tone has been welcomed by some mothers who felt under pressure to breastfeed their children.
Mother of three Laura Jane-Bell told Sky News that she struggled to feed her first child and felt like a failure for stopping after five days.
She persevered with her second and third child but says the pressure she was under was not backed up with adequate support.
She said: “I did feel a complete failure by formula feeding him, and I was made to feel like that by the GPs I visited and things.
“But, as far as I could see, I couldn’t find a way through it. The support’s not there. So we’ve got the drop-in centres, and obviously there’s the infant feeding teams in the hospitals.
“But women and mums need that support every single day, for the first few weeks when a baby arrives.”
Sarah McMullin, head of research at the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said that the new wording was welcome but that the guidelines on breastfeeding were still outdated.
She said: “At the moment it doesn’t feel realistic for women to feed through days, weeks, six months, never mind two years.
“I think the important thing is we take a really one-to-one, individual approach, helping women to feed for as long as they would like to, and that they’re both supported to breastfeed when they want to, and also feel supported when they make a decision to stop at a time that’s right for them.”
According to the RCM, breastfeeding positively influences inpatient admission rates in the early weeks of life for respiratory and gastric conditions, and reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Long-term benefits include protection against diabetes and obesity, and there are documented advantages to developmental performance and educational achievement.
The UK breastfeeding rate is among the lowest in the world with the latest figures from 2010 suggesting that 81% of new mothers start breastfeeding, but only 43% carry on past six to eight weeks.
From – SkyNews