01 Feb 2018
The BDA strongly supports breastfeeding. We recognise that breastfeeding is the optimum form of nutrition for babies and that breastfeeding protects the health of babies and their mothers. Dietitians should support midwives, health visitors and family nurses and their efforts to enable all mothers to breastfeed or provide breastmilk for their infant/s if they want to and are able. Mothers should be supported to initiate and maintain exclusive breastfeeding from birth to around six months of age and from six months onwards breastfeeding should be supported alongside complementary foods for as long as the mother and infant wish to continue.
Breastfeeding rates in the UK remain very low when compared to similar countries around the world, particularly maintenance beyond the first few weeks. We therefore support all efforts to improve breastfeeding rates in the UK through active promotion of breastfeeding, the provision of support and advice to parents, and adherence to national and international policies and practices that protect, support and promote breastfeeding.
The BDA believes that:
- Babies should be breastfed exclusively to around six months of age. Mothers should then be supported to continue to breastfeed, alongside the introduction of suitable complementary foods in the first year, and up to two years of age and beyond.
- Women should be enabled and empowered to feel comfortable, and be able to breastfeed, wherever their baby needs to be fed.
- Employers should facilitate the continuation of breastfeeding when women return to work by following guidance from Maternity Action[i] and NHS.
- The UK Government needs to do more to support women to breastfeed, particularly first time mothers, younger mothers, and those living in more deprived areas. This includes ensuring:
- all maternity, health visiting and family nurse services are UNICEF UK Baby Friendly accredited
- there is peer support in place for all women during pregnancy and after birth
- all healthcare workers are provided with sufficient education and training to be able to protect and promote breastfeeding
- Breastmilk substitutes (infant formula, follow on formula, and infant milks for special medical purposes) should not be marketed to the public. All health professionals should review their responsibilities around the protection of breastfeeding.
- If a woman is unable or makes an informed choice not to breastfeed, they should receive appropriate support and evidence-based advice from all healthcare professionals, including dietitians, to ensure that they use an appropriate first infant milk. Advice should include: how to safely clean and sterilise equipment, make up infant formula; minimising the number of people feeding the baby, hold the baby close and have good eye contact and responsively feed the baby[ii] ensuring there is understanding that the baby does not need to take the same volume at each feed. Equitable standards of care should be given to all mothers and carers regardless of whether breast or formula milk is given to the infant.
- The introduction of solid food should commence at around six months of age, when the baby is developmentally ready, in line with current guidance.
- UK government should reinstate the five-yearly Infant Feeding Survey so accurate information on breastfeeding and infant feeding can continue to be collected to drive improvements in breastfeeding rates and identify barriers across the whole of the UK. Access to accurate data is critical to effective policy making.