Gill O’Connor, Infant Feeding and Breastfeeding Development Coordinator:

Mothers’ infant feeding choices

On 12th June, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) released a statement on the Infant Feeding Initiative and one interpretation of the part of this statement could be that midwives do not currently respect mothers’ infant feeding choices. One result of this was that some newspaper headlines were very negative and interviews on the media caused much debate about a sensitive and emotive issue.

In Southend, the Baby Friendly Initiative is being rolled out across maternity and children’s services. This staged accreditation programme trains health professionals in hospitals, health visiting services and children’s centres to support mothers to breastfeed and help all parents to build a close and loving relationship with their baby, irrespective of feeding method.

The way that parents choose to feed their new baby should be an informed choice and your health visitor or midwife can give information and support parents in that decision making.

Sometimes parents’ decision to bottle feed is made ante-natally, but when the baby is born mothers may decide to put the baby to the breast and continue breastfeeding. However, for those that decide to bottle feed, health visitors and midwives are able to show how to make up feeds safely, feed responsively and help to negotiate the way through the plethora of different milks on the market.

Research has shown that 8 out of 10 mothers stop breastfeeding before they want to. This can lead to feelings of guilt and loss. Supporting mothers to breastfeed if they wish is a key part of the Southend Supports Breastfeeding scheme A Better Start Southend is running with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The schemes will be launched during the UK National Breastfeeding Week, which begins on 25th June 2018 and encourages public venues across the borough, such as shops, cafes and leisure centres, to welcome women who want to breastfeed their babies.

In addition to the scheme, A Better Start Southend is offering support through groups, 1:1 and home visiting, which is being rolled out across Southend and delivered by a collaboration of health, children’s centres, voluntary agencies and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The aim is to support mothers in their breastfeeding journey, but also to advise and support transition to formula feeding – although babies can be breastfed for as long as mothers wish to continue. Respect will be given to all women and their feeding choices whatever they may be and consideration taken into account that individuals have individual needs.

For further information about the Southend Supports Breastfeeding scheme, contact Sabrina Kerr, Advanced Health Improvement Practitioner at A Better Start Southend and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, on 01702 534543 or   

For links to useful webpages see the breastfeeding section on our Resources for Parents and Resources for Professionals pages on our website.

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