Are we giving up on breastfeeding?

I’m just asking.  Life is really tough at the moment.  Really tough.  This government is grinding down families, the vulnerable and those who care for them.  There’s no funding for anything.  This year has been a hard year in many ways.  Resilience is low.  Morale is low.  I get it.  So I’m just asking.  But are we giving up on breastfeeding?

On the #MatExp Facebook group today we have been talking about the new fad for baby boxes.  I am ready to be corrected on my understanding of these because it all seems about as clear as mud, but from what I can gather these boxes are provided by the Baby Box company, which is neither WHO code compliant nor UNICEF Baby Friendly. But they are being embraced up and down the NHS.  And in many cases trusts are using them to put across the message that bedsharing is dangerous.

So the NHS is launching, with great fanfare, schemes which do not comply with the codes and guidance we have in place for protecting and supporting breastfeeding.

At the same time it is once again putting the message out there that sharing a bed with your baby is very dangerous.  Why does that matter?  Well it matters for three reasons:

1. Sharing a bed with your baby is not dangerous.  There are ways to do it dangerously and ways to do it safely, as with everything to do with infants

(see https://growingfamilies.co.uk/2016/06/15/the-practicalities-of-sharing-a-bed-with-your-baby/)

2. Those who bedshare breastfeed for longer

(see https://growingfamilies.co.uk/2016/09/04/infant-sleep-expectations-and-reality/)

3. Breastfed babies appear to be at a lower risk of SIDS.  The very thing these safe sleep messages are trying to combat

(see http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/123/3/e406.full)

Some in the NHS may be unaware of these facts.  But plenty of those in maternity and infant feeding know this stuff, yet they are still keen to promote the baby boxes.  “Free” stuff for parents seems to trump any concerns about the messages being given out and their potential effects.

Similarly, knowledge about and passion for upholding the WHO (World Health Organisation) code still seems to be limited.  This code has been in place since 1981 yet still many people and organisations seem not to understand it.  Just this week two midwifery organisations have been confused about the code compliance of a particular company, and have felt that this company’s support was appropriate for them despite the company in question undermining breastfeeding.

Information is not hard to come by.  If we are talking about safe bedsharing, then some places to look are:

https://www.isisonline.org.uk/

http://www.llli.org/sweetsleepbook/thesafesleepseven

https://growingfamilies.co.uk/2016/06/15/the-practicalities-of-sharing-a-bed-with-your-baby/

safe-sleep

If we are talking about WHO code compliance and conflicts of interest then some places to look are:

http://www.babymilkaction.org/

http://www.ibfan.org/

http://www.firststepsnutrition.org/

http://lifib.org.uk/

There really is no excuse for midwives, health visitors, paediatricians and others supporting new families not to be informed about these issues.

One NHS employee told me:

“This week  I’ve had the task of going to all the baby clinics to check BFI standards. It’s a joke. Leaflets & posters out of date and the the advice shocking!!!!!! I’ve never heard such out of date rubbish. I was told that bed sharing absolutely no. They don’t have time to ask or give other info and no point anyway as most mums now formula feed. They have just halved our budget for breastfeeding support and are pulling us out of the hospital because apparently the midwives can do our job. But the drive in our area is reduced infant mortality as deaths are so high. They are looking at these damn boxes. When we said breastfeeding is the best way to reduce infant mortality they said yes but it makes pressure on mums. It’s beyond ridiculous.”

Is this where we’re at?  Come on, be truthful, is this where we’re at?  Despite knowing that increasing breastfeeding rates would reduce so many instances of illness in both babies and their mothers, are we giving up on it?  Is it just too hard now?  Is it just too difficult in this climate to keep pushing for support and education?

There is no need for the conversation to STILL be about “pressure”.  Baby Friendly’s Call to Action makes that very clear.  What are the barriers to this call to action being implemented?  What is making you feel like we might as well give up?  How can we help?  How can we all keep coming together to tackle this?  Because I for one don’t want to give up.  Do you?

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Helen Calvert
@heartmummy
October 2016

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16 thoughts on “Are we giving up on breastfeeding?

  1. Shel Banks says:

    I do not want to give up. Some days I feel like the obstacles are too great and I have to step away, but I do not want to give.
    The expertise, information and support that new families need is only achievable if we all stand together.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find it so frustrating that so often when talking about SIDS risk factors that we neglect to mention NOT breastfeeding being one of the risk factors. I see nothing wrong with these boxes themselves but the messages going along with them and the high risk of inappropriate marketing opportunities are both so counterproductive.
    😦 the pressures against this call to action are immense. People are tired and drained and disheartened that sometimes it feels things are moving backwards but I like to remind myself now and then that the more obstacles put in the way and the need for more pressure from commercial interests must have come from somewhere … the tide was changing … nows the time to dig deep and hold fast.

    Like

  3. Lisette says:

    Wonderful blog! You have renewed my passion Thank-You ……… if you are happy would like to use this blog as pre-training reading for our staff!?

    Day in Day out we offer support and information and then as you say an “initiative” takes off that is neither “UNICEF Baby Friendly” nor “WHO” code compliant….. and is being hailed through the media as the magic answer. Only this morning on the local radio station, they were talking about a local hospital that has adopted these boxes …….. the newsreader reported that these were to “stop babies rolling over” (how a box can do this is beyond me)

    The important thing when discussing the risks of cot death is to ensure that they are in fact “discussed” not just the giving of a leaflet and this should include the benefit of breastfeeding in the reduction of cot death alongside “safe bedsharing” and the dangers of:-
    leaving babies sleeping in car seats!
    Sofa sharing etc

    Like

  4. Liz May says:

    Thank you for writing this. I cried at work today because of the prospect of our awarding breastfeeding team being disbanded, despite increasing breastfeeding rates in our area from 42% to 70% and despite the Care Quality Commission rating our service as a “pocket of excellence” whilst the rest the service was deemed to “require improvement” and despite a six year journey leading to our borough achieving Unicef Baby Friendly Accreditation earlier this year. I’m down but not out and wont give up without a fight.

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  5. Elizabeth carter says:

    Liz, your comment just says it all. The statistics speaks for themselves.
    People seem to be picking and choosing which facts they want to believe. Finland did not cut infant mortality rates because babies slept in a box, they cut them because the box of freebies was given in exchange for attending antenatal appointments. So the box was simply used as an incentive to receive the full health care available.

    People do not bed share because they can’t afford a cot. They do it because their baby doesn’t understand the nhs safe sleep advice and cries every time you try to put them down. Having a free box will not make your baby go down.
    Exhausted desperate parents do dangerous things. Stop them being exhausted and desperate by telling them how to get some sleep safely.

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  6. It’s baffling these boxes are being heralded as the reason for Finlands fantastic stats in terms of SIDS rates – neglecting entirely the difference good maternity & paternity leave make, & the difference exclusive breastfeeding makes! But we seem to be afraid to say one of the biggest risks for cot death is NOT breastfeeding! So how will these boxes aid that? How many will actually use them? Where do you place them if not on the floor? I just don’t get it.

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    • grownuphippychic says:

      I would love to know – and must find out – what proportion of Finlanders bedshare? Breastfeeding rates are high so I’ll bet loads of them bedshare! Maybe the boxes aren’t even used that much at NIGHT?! Maybe that is the real reason their SIDS rate is low!

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  7. grownuphippychic says:

    Thanks for this Helen. I’m just wondering if you can help? – I’m struggling to find how the boxes are not WHO compliant and not Babyfriendly? I’ve looked at their links/sponsors and can’t find anything?? Many thanks …

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    • grownuphippychic says:

      I should add – the reason for asking is because my gut feeling is that I’m not keen them but I can’t find any actual evidence to back up that feeling and I want to be prepared if they come to our area!

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  8. Thank you Laura. As we have discussed on Twitter, the company has not declared itself to be WHO code compliant, and the contents of the boxes can change at any time, so without that assertion all manner of non-WHO code compliant items could be placed in them and marketed via them. There are bottles and dummies featured in one cartoon element of the site, which suggests that WHO code compliance is not something about which they are interested. We will await further information. H.x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. grownuphippychic says:

    I guess while it is ambiguous there is no reason not to use them, if folks choose to … BUT if they become obviously NON compliant, then surely the Trusts already using them will have to withdraw? Certainly one to watch!

    What I can’t get my head around is how Trusts can apparently afford these unnecessary things whilst not being able to afford crucial breastfeeding support?! Grrrrrr ….. 😦

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