RCM publishes new position statement on infant feeding
The RCM has confirmed that ‘the decision of whether or not to breastfeed is a woman’s choice and must be respected’, in a new position statement on infant feeding.
The statement recommends that balanced and relevant information be given to parents choosing to formula feed their babies, whether exclusively or partially, to enable them to do so safely and with support to encourage good bonding.
The RCM advises that breastfeeding mothers and their partners should be given information and support to help manage the physical, mental, emotional and societal challenges of breastfeeding.
The need for maternity units to be appropriately staffed is also highlighted as well as sufficient investment to be made in postnatal care to enable each woman to get the support and advice she needs to make informed choices about feeding her baby.
On exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life the RCM confirms this to be most appropriate method of infant feeding and that breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary foods for up to two years, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UK departments of health recommendations to promote and support breastfeeding.
RCM chief executive Gill Walton 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.’
Gill added that the RCM believes that women should be at the centre of their own care and as with other areas of maternity care midwives and MSWs 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.
‘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,’ she said.
Gill highlighted that for women who choose to breastfeed it is so important that they feel supported not only by midwives, but by their family and friends too: ‘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 added that 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 make decisions that are right for themselves and their babies.’
Access the new statement here.