More midwives needed to support women with infant feeding choices says RCM

on 08 February 2023 RCM Maternity Services Midwifery Midwives Staffing Levels Government RCM Member Infant Feeding Breastfeeding Formula Milk

Women need better support to make infant feeding choices and that means addressing the serious midwife shortage. That’s the view of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) responding to a Lancet series on formula milk advertising published today.  

Formula milk marketing tactics are exploitative and regulations need to be urgently strengthened and properly implemented, according to a new three paper Series publish in The Lancet.   

 “Women need balanced and accurate information to make an informed choice about feeding their babies. Midwives, other health professionals, and trusted sources such as the NHS website are where we advise them to seek this not the marketing material of formula milk companies. That is why it is so important that midwives have the time to discuss infant feeding with women before their baby is born and continue to offer that support postnatally,” said  Sally Ashton-May, the RCM’s Director for Midwifery Policy and Practice. “Significant midwife shortages and a lack of specialist infant feeding midwives are hindering this from happening as it should. There is also a massive disparity that is difficult to overcome between formula companies' advertising and marketing budgets, and NHS budgets for one-to-one care and support in maternity services that women need and deserve. We need to redress that balance."  

“Women will make their own decisions about how they feed their baby and these choices must be respected and supported. However, there is plenty of evidence of the many health benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies not provided by formula milk, said Sally. “Also, many women in the UK and globally cannot afford formula milk, whereas breastfeeding is free. In some countries, the use of formula milk is also associated with safety issues where there is limited access to clean water to make it.” 

According to the Lancet the Series describes how profits made by the formula milk industry benefit companies located in high-income countries while the social, economic and environmental harms are widely distributed and most harmful in low and middle income countries.

See the RCM’s position statement on infant feeding at rcm-position-statement-infant-feeding.pdf

Read more at Unveiling the predatory tactics of the formula milk industry - The Lancet.