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If Breast is still best for mothers give mothers more time with midwives, say mothers

If Breast is still best for mothers give mothers more time with midwives, say mothers

For immediate release, Thursday 22nd May   2014
 
Almost a half, or 43 per cent of mothers recently surveyed said that they did not think they were given enough information about breastfeeding. While 80 per cent of the women surveyed said they had wanted to breastfeed, only 57 per cent reported that they had received enough information about breastfeeding. 
55 per cent of mothers said they had very little, none or had to seek support from elsewhere about breastfeeding. Nearly a fifth of midwives surveyed reported that breastfeeding was not usually initiated within the first hour of giving birth, a crucial period for the mother and baby to bond.
 
Frustratingly, 57 per cent of midwives said they “would like to do more” or “would like to a lot more” to provide infant feeding support and help mothers. This Monday (19th May) also heralded the beginning of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which ends May 25th.
 
CEO of the Royal College of Midwives Cathy Warwick said: 
“We are facing a backlash and demonization of  women breastfeeding in public, with several recent high profile media cases where mothers were told to stop breastfeeding. We are  told constantly by mothers that they gave up breastfeeding before they wanted to because of a lack of support and information from health professionals, including midwives. …It is clear from our research findings that many women will not be getting the help that they need to breastfeed because of time and resources constraints. ”
 
Midwives said there is not usually enough time or resources to support new mothers with important aspects of breastfeeding, such as latching-on and correct positioning, said about a quarter of both midwives and MSWs. Despite national breastfeeding standards and policies within maternity units in the UK, the benefit of breastfeeding is not being felt by mothers because midwives and maternity support workers lack time and resources to adequately implement them.
 
These worrying statistics are part of the Royal College of Midwives’ third report for its Pressure Points campaign, which examines whether maternity teams have enough time and resources to provide the postnatal care and vital advice that mothers, babies and families, need want and deserve.
 
A midwife surveyed said: “I always feel I’m pushed for time. I am frustrated that I am not always able to deliver the standard of care women require and deserve.
 
Professor Warwick added: “We feel that breastfeeding is no longer getting the attention it deserves as a vital public health issue. There is no longer a national breastfeeding coordinator to coordinate England’s strategy or a national strategy, while Scotland and Wales have strategies. The financial strains that have been put on the NHS means we are seeing overstretched and demoralised midwives and maternity support workers struggling to maintain breastfeeding levels.”
 
The survey of mothers – carried out in collaboration with the online parenting group Netmums - also showed that respondents did not feel informed about breastfeeding by midwives. Time and time again, mothers recounted their disappointment and frustration at not being able to breastfeed for as long as they wanted because of lack of support from health professionals.
 
A mother said: “Midwives seem to have too much to do, they just get rid of you as quickly as possible to move onto the next patient.”
 
Mother: “I needed breastfeeding support at the weekend and the community midwives had advised me to call the hospital. The hospital directed me to the community midwives who were not available at the weekend!”
 
Unicef UK has published research saying that the NHS could save £40 million a year if more women were given help to breastfeed for longer. It said there were potential savings in five disease areas: breast cancer in mothers, gastroenteritis, respiratory illness, ear infections and the life-threatening condition necrotising enterocolitis. 
 
In the RCM’s survey of midwives’** views about postnatal care,  more than a third, 36 per cent, of midwives and maternity support workers said they would like to  able to do more for women and provide women with postnatal care to a standard that they are pleased with. Helping a mother to breastfeed or bottle-feed is a fundamental element of postnatal care.
 
A midwife said: “ I always feel I’m pushed for time. I am frustrated that I’m not always able to deliver the standard of care women require and deserve.”
 
Research has shown that other factors, such as the availability and expert knowledge from midwives, especially community midwives and maternity support workers, who play an integral role in helping and guiding women about breastfeeding, are important.
 
In conclusion, the report made several recommendations, which the RCM is calling on those who hold the financial purse strings and providers of maternity services to implement, notably:
 
1] Providers of NHS maternity care need to recruit enough midwives and
Maternity Support Workers, particularly in England, to ensure that all women who chose to breastfeed get the support to initiate and continue breastfeeding.  
2] Support needs to be given to women equally, regardless of their chosen infant-feeding method. 
3] Ensure all parents who have chosen to bottle-feed are shown how to sterilise bottle-feeding equipment and ensure that they have a one-to-one demonstration about making-up formula feeds safely before they leave hospital, which would be in line with national standards.
 
In England, the RCM is campaigning for 4,800 more midwives. There is no overall shortage of midwives in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the shortage in England is alarming.
 
Julia McGinely, director of parent support at Britain's biggest parenting website Netmums, said: "Women are missing out on breastfeeding and babies are missing out on the best start in life as midwives are too overstretched to provide the right care. The NICE guidelines recommend the first feed within an hour of birth but midwives rushing to help several women on a busy labour ward simply aren't always able to fulfil this.
 
"While it's positive that four in five women now try breastfeeding, the study shows women are giving up, as they aren't getting the support they need. First-time mums need to be shown how to breastfeed and you don't learn instantly, it can take several tries to get it right.
 
"Government guidelines say babies should breastfeed for the first six months, but to have any chance of hitting this target, there needs to be proper investment in more health professionals to support mums."
 
Professor Warwick said: “Getting infant feeding right is a great way to give newborns the best possible head start in life. We need more midwives and maternity support workers if we are to be confident that we are giving enough support to all women. Maternity care, especially breastfeeding support, is the earliest health intervention of them all and getting it right for mothers, babies and families is an important part of supporting families and building on the health of our next generation.
 
The report is the third of a series of five reports to be published this year looking at different aspects of postnatal care. It forms part of the RCM’s ‘Pressure Points’ postnatal care campaign focusing on the importance of high-quality care after giving birth as a foundation to good health for both mother and baby. Our members have told us that postnatal care is a “Cinderella service” where midwives are pulled from working in the community to staff under-resourced labour units.  To view a copy of the infant feeding report and the two previous reports, please visit:  www.rcm.org.uk/content/pressure-points
 
For further information please contact the RCM Press Office on 020 7312 3456/3433 or Manuela.dacosta-fernandes@rcm.org.uk or 0770 332 1661 (after hours)
 
To contact Netmums or to request an interview with netmums, please email: mediarequests@netmums.com
-ends-
 
Notes to editors 
* The survey was conducted on the Netmums website from 13th to 27th September 2013.
and 486 women from across the UK, but mainly England, responded to the survey. 
 
**The Surveys of midwives, student midwives and maternity support workers were conducted in September and November 2013.  2,123 midwives, 950 student midwives and 98 maternity support workers responded to the surveys.
 
The hashtag for National Breastfeeding Awareness week is  #nbfw14
 
The Royal College of Midwives is the voice of midwifery. We are the UK’s only trade union and professional organisation led by midwives for midwives. The vast majority of the midwifery profession are our members. The RCM promotes midwifery, quality maternity services and professional standards. We support and represent our members individually and collectively in all four UK countries.  We influence on behalf of our members and for the interests of the women and families for which they care.