RCM comments on WHO/US Government breastfeeding issue

By RCM on 10 July 2018 Breastfeeding World Health Organisation

There have been media reports about the US Government’s refusal to support a WHO breastfeeding resolution. Commenting on the issue, Clare Livingstone, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Whilst we do not know the detail about this, what is clear is that breastfeeding brings the greatest benefits in terms of health to the baby and also benefits the mother; for example in reducing the chances of breast cancer.

“It is disappointing that the US Government does not appear to support a resolution such as this. We would urge the US Government to think again about this policy because it will have an impact not just in the USA, but across the world.

“Breastfeeding is nearly always the safest way to feed babies. It boosts immunity and protection against infection. In many countries because of the lack of access to clean water, formula feeding is associated with the risk of fatal disease.

“The US Government reportedly say that poverty and malnutrition are one of the reasons many women cannot breastfeed. This seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Surely the focus should be on reducing poverty and malnutrition so that women are healthy enough to breastfeed. Also, families in poverty can often not afford formula feed.

“What is most important in all of this, as the US Government do also reportedly say, is that the infant feeding choices a woman makes should be the right ones for her and her family situation. If a woman chooses to formula feed then these choices should be respected and the woman supported to feed her baby safely.”

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Note to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.