New mums should not be shamed into breastfeeding and their choice to bottle feed must be respected, midwives have been told.
New advice from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in the UK stresses that new mothers should be given appropriate support if they make an informed decision to bottle feed.
The guidance marks a shift in position from previous advice emphasising the ‘risks’ of formula feeding while also focussing on the benefits of breastfeeding.
Though the new advice recommends babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, in line with advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the RCM has acknowledged that some mothers struggle to start or continue breastfeeding.
The decision about how to feed her baby is a woman’s right, the organisation states.
Commenting on the guidance, Gill Walton, chief executive of the RCM said: “Evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO 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.”
She goes on to say that women “should be at the centre of their own care” and midwives and maternity support workers should “promote informed choice.”
“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 senior midwife continued.
Mums should never be made to feel guilty
The RCM continued to say that women should not be made to feel ‘guilty or embarrassed’ about how they feed their children.
“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,” Walton continued.
The professional body believes women who choose to breastfeed should also be offered more support.
“Women should not feel guilty or embarrassed about breastfeeding in public and as a society we must continue to develop a culture of positive support for women who wish to breastfeed and educating the public is key to this,” she said.
“There must be more investment in postnatal care services and specialist midwives to enable each woman to get the support and advice she needs to make informed choices about feeding her baby.
“We know that every woman wants the best for her baby and we want to be able to empower our members to support women to be the best they can be and enable them to decisions that are right for themselves and their babies.”
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