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Motivate more mothers to breastfeed; withdraw vouchers for free formula

1 Comment 16th May 2015

Given sufficient information, encouragement and support, 999 new mothers out of 1000 will lactate within 3 days of birth and are physically capable of breastfeeding their babies.  Yet Britain has the third lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.  Breastfeeding provides the optimum nutritional, immunological and emotional benefits for babies and toddlers, whereas infant formula feeding is unnecessary and risky, costing our healthcare system millions of £££ in treating extra infections (doctor's visits, antibiotics, hospitalizations.)  Mothers want the best for their babies, if only they know what that is.  Help provide better incentives for more mothers to breastfeed, and for longer 1) Withdraw free infant formula milk from Healthy Start Vouchers, see http://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/en/fe/get_the_vouchers.html   and 2) use the mooney saved to enable more mothers to breastfeed more easily by supporting better, up to date, evidence-based infant feeding training for doctors, midwives and health visitors and certification of more Baby-Friendly Hospitals (see www.unicef.org.uk )

Why does this matter?

This is important:

1) because the suboptimal health suffered by formula-fed babies can lead to life-long negative outcomes for themselves (eg increased rates of asthma, obesity, diabetes, lower cognitive ability) and their mothers (increased risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis directly linked to the numbers of months a mother does or does not breastfeed). And because the babies born into the least advantaged environments – those who most need the health benefits of breastfeeding – are the ones least likely to receive them.

2) because when a healthcare system hands out free formula it provides an (incorrect!) endorsement to mothers about the safety and appropriateness of this method of feeding their babies.  The NHS has a responsibility to promote healthy practices – this would include helping mothers to breastfeed according to international guidelines, ie exclusively for the first six months of life and partially (with weaning foods) for up to 2 years or beyond.

3) because free formula for low income women costs the government millions of £££.  If mothers truly choose to formula-feed, then they should accept responsibility for paying for it themselves, bearing in mind that it takes 40 kg of formula powder to feed one baby for one year.

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One Response to Motivate more mothers to breastfeed; withdraw vouchers for free formula

  1. Zoe Bremer says:

    I can’t see the logic of this. If babies need human milk it doesn’t matter who provides it and no child is going to benefit from being suckled by a drug addict or someone with HIV! Secondly, I can’t see how breastfeeding, which uses up large amounts of calcium, can protect a woman against osteoporosis – it would appear to me that it is more like to cause it.

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