14th February 2018
A blog written by iHV Fellow Debbie Holroyd on recent meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infant Feeding and Inequalities held at the House of Commons, Westminster.
On 14/11/17 and 30/1/18, Rosemary Brown (a fellow FiHV) and I attended meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding and Inequalities.
We have been attending as many of these meetings as we can since the group started some time ago and have been lucky enough to hear some very interesting presentations from many experts in the field. Of course, the theme is always around the fact that we need to help more women to breastfeed and, once started, continue to do so. UK rates of breastfeeding continue be disappointing and the ongoing cuts in services to support women do not help. A Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative survey of infant feeding leads in England recently highlighted that 47% reported a cut in breastfeeding support groups and 58% reported cuts in front line visits by health workers*.
Dr Amy Brown from Swansea University highlighted the fact that her research indicated that, up to 26 weeks, it is normal for a baby to have 2-3 night feeds per day, with increased feeding at the 6-week growth spurt. Responsive feeding led to more frequent feeds overall and that mothers were more attuned to their needs. How many women know that their baby may need feeding 20 times a day and how our perceptions in advanced economies may be quite different, putting women off breastfeeding as they may think their baby’s demand is unusual….it’s not!!
Melissa Milner from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health indicated that the RCPCH report now includes a chapter on breastfeeding, mentioned their position statement and that the college is committed to breaking down barriers to breastfeeding. There was also a discussion as to the media position regarding breastfeeding, where bottle feeding remains a pervasive aspect of many TV programmes and advertising campaigns.
Breast milk sharing was discussed, and the use of milk banks. With reduced support in some areas, women may turn to online donors as an alternative to their own milk – maybe without the correct safeguards. It is important that women use a regulated milk bank to ensure they are using a safe and regulated product. The UK government needs to invest in these services to allow those who wish to donate milk to do so locally, so mothers requiring milk can access it easily. Government ministers have been asked how breast milk can be shared safely. So far the response from the Secretary of State for Health indicates that there are no plans to change the way the 16 milk banks across the UK are funded.
Alison Thewliss MP was able to show us the Baby Box which is now given out free of charge to all new mothers in Scotland. This box is designed for the newborn to sleep in, as well as containing a lot of unbranded equipment which will be most welcome.
It is, as ever, a privilege to be part of these meetings at the House of Commons on behalf of the iHV.