RCM responds to BBC poll on women’s experiences of breastfeeding

on 27 January 2019 Breastfeeding Position Statement Specialist Midwives Postnatal Care Infant Feeding

Today (Tuesday 29th January)  the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have responded to a new poll about women’s experiences of feeding their baby, commissioned by BBC Radio’ 4 Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio Sheffield.

The findings have revealed that almost 50 percent of the women surveyed aged 18-40 felt they had let their baby down when they struggled to breastfeed.

Also, two thirds of women who breastfed their baby say it was one of the best parts of being a mother (66%) half say it was one of the toughest parts (49%).

The poll investigated the factors affecting how women fed their babies, including public pressure, mental health and ability to breastfeed.

Other findings from the poll include a third of women who breastfed their baby feeling pressure from society to breastfeed (33%) and three in ten women who formula-fed their baby (either exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding) say they would have liked to have breastfed but felt embarrassed to do so in public (30%).

Responding Clare Livingstone Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said; “Women should not feel guilty if they are struggling to breastfeed their baby or choose not to. While evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO guidance brings optimum benefits for the health of both mother and baby, it is not always possible.

“The reality is that some women, for a variety of reasons, struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding. For some women switching to formula milk is actually a decision not a choice, as they may need to return to work for example, or have other caring commitments.

“Breastfeeding mothers need to be well supported by health services and respected by wider society. Women should be made to feel comfortable and welcome when feeding their babies in public places.

“Unfortunately, huge cuts to local services haven’t helped, causing closures of many children’s centres, libraries and community hubs. These are safe spaces where women can meet informally for advice, support and companionship when feeding their babies.

“Crucially we need more specialist midwives to support women to breastfeed. Maternity units must be appropriately staffed, with sufficient investment in postnatal care. Every woman deserves high quality advice and support, to make well informed choices about how to feed her baby.”

“This survey shines a light on what it feels like to be a new mother in the 21st century. Breastfeeding can be a very positive experience, but there are a number of considerations in the totality of women’s lives that need attention, support and understanding.”




RCM Position Statement on Infant Feeding (June 2018) can be viewed here.

Related media release available here.

To contact the RCM Media Relations Team call 020 7312 3456 or email [email protected]


Notes 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/