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
2. Those who bedshare breastfeed for longer
3. Breastfed babies appear to be at a lower risk of SIDS. The very thing these safe sleep messages are trying to combat
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:
If we are talking about WHO code compliance and conflicts of interest then some places to look are:
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?