The Royal College of Midwives has issued official guidance stating women need to be supported whether they choose to breastfeed or use formula.
For new mums, whether to breastfeed or bottle feed is a big decision. And with evidence and experts supporting the health benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months, those who choose to bottle feed can feel as though they’re being judged.
But now the biggest official trade union of midwives in the UK has updated its statementon infant feeding to stress that every new mother’s choice – whether that be to bottle feed or breastfeed – should be respected.
Though the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)’s standard advice is to breastfeed for the first six months of a baby’s life, the organisation has now issued an update to their official statement and has said: ‘The decision of whether or not to breastfeed is a woman’s choice and must be respected.’
‘The decision of whether or not to breastfeed is a woman’s choice and must be respected’
This is an important step for the RCM, which advises midwives on best practices in their profession, and the body says they have made the statement as they ultimately believe women should ‘be at the centre of their own care’.
‘Evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO [World Health Organisation] guidance brings optimum benefits for the health of both mother and baby. However the reality is that often some women for a variety of reasons struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding,’ Chief Executive Gill Walton said 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.’
The debate over infant feeding is a long-ranging one that comes up time and time again. Though, it’s well know that the NHS, WHO and RCM recommend breastfeeding if possible, some women have expressed disappointment that if they can’t – or choose not to – they feel pressurised and shamed.
In 2015, a survey by Channel Mum revealed that 55% of 2000 new mums said they had experienced ‘bressure’ – pressure to breastfeed – and that 41% said bottle feeding their child made them feel they have ‘failed as a mum and failed their child’.
‘As long as baby and mum are both happy, fed and thriving, that’s all that matters – not whether it’s via breast or bottle,’ Channel Mum founder Siobhan Freegard said. ‘For too long what should be a personal choice has been turned into a political issue with everyone from family members to health experts to strangers pushing their opinions onto new mums.
‘For too long what should be a personal choice has been turned into a political issue’
‘Hopefully, these new guidelines will see this treatment end and society finally accept mums make the choice which is best for them and their family. Feeding a newborn is one of the most overwhelming tasks a woman will ever face and if she cannot – or does not want to – breastfeed for any reason, then other people must respect that.’
The NCT, which also recommends breastfeeding, said they ‘wholeheartedly’ support the RCM’s new statement as it is up to women how they decide to feed their babies and no one deserves to be shamed.
‘Mums who decide to bottle-feed should not be shamed or made to feel guilty, ‘said Abi Wood, head of campaigns at the NCT, ‘Not everyone finds breastfeeding easy and it’s really important that parents can access the support they need, when they need it.’