You may have seen discussions on infant feeding in the news last week with headlines such as “Bottle-Feeding Mothers Choice Must Be Respected and, Midwives Advised By New RCM Guidelines”. While encouraging breastfeeding should be a priority for your early years setting, it’s equally important for families who choose to formula feed their babies to be supported to do so safely and to maximise bonding with their baby. We’ve therefore dedicated this weeks blog to explore ways your early years setting can support both breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers and families.
Understanding the headlines
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) produced an updated position statement around infant feeding. They continue to recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six month of a baby’s life and highlight the importance of breastfeeding mothers being given “information and support to help manage the physical, mental, emotional and societal challenges of breastfeeding”.
The RCM’s position statement now also reflects their views on supporting families who choose to formula feed their babies. They state “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.” Chief Executive of RCM said families “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.”
These are important message for everyone working with new and expectant families to take on board, as while evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding, brings the best benefits for the health of both mother and baby, many women find it difficult to start or continue breastfeeding. It’s important that mothers are not judged for their chosen form of feeding and that they receive support and advice tailored to their needs.
What can our setting do to support breastfeeding mothers?
It’s important that your early years setting supports breastfeeding mothers, and encourages them to continue providing breastmilk for their baby while attending your setting. Supporting women to continue breastfeeding should include:
- Promoting that you are a breastfeeding friendly setting (Unicef have some fantastic free downloadable resources such as posters and leaflets)
- Providing a comfortable place to breastfeed (in private if she so wishes)
- Signposting to evidence-based and expert information and advice (midwifes, health visitors, support groups)
- Encouraging mothers who wish to provide expressed breastmilk for their infants and children to do so
- Avoiding the promotion of formula- milk or using promotional material from infant formula companies.
Where can we signpost mothers to for information and advice around breastfeeding?
- Start4Life Website
- Start4Life’s Breastfeeding Friend (on Facebook messenger and Amazon Alexa)
- Local breastfeeding support groups
- National Breastfeeding Helpline –0300 100 0212
- Their midwife or health visitor.
What can our setting do to support families who formula- feed?
As highlighted by RCM, it’s important that you support families who choose to formula- feed their babies and that they too are encouraged and supported to do this safely. Ways your setting can support families who formula feed include:
- Providing a comfortable place to feed their baby
- Displaying and promoting Start4Life’s ‘Guide to Bottle’ feeding booklets
- Allowing parents access to a clean designated area for making up formula feeds
- Signposting to evidence-based and expert information and advice
- Using your Food Policy and Infant Feeding Policy to highlight how you safely prepare formula- milk when children are in your care
- Support staff to role model best practice so they can communicate the key messages to families.
Where can we signpost families to for information and advice around formula-feeding?
- Start4Life website and Guide to Bottle Feeding booklet
- NHS Choices Website
- National Childbirth Trust
- Their midwife or health visitor.
For more information on how your setting can support families, book our Food and Nutrition for Infants training. In this training you’ll explore:
- Information on the breastfeeding and formula feeding, such as safe preparation and storage
- The importance of developing healthy eating habits in the early years
- The recommended age to introduce solid foods
- Suitable foods to offer in the first year, considering texture and finger foods
- Tops tips to encourage infants to explore new foods
- Suitable drinks and when to introduce the cup
- Vitamin recommendations
- The key messages to promote in your setting and helpful resources.
By Georgia Leech