Unicef are getting behind mothers and babies with their campaign ‘Call to Action’ – urging government to take vital steps to help support mothers with breastfeeding.
For a long time now, public health campaigns have stressed the importance of breastfeeding – ‘Breast is best’ is an old slogan pretty much discussed globally, and most parents are well aware of the health and well-being benefits breastmilk affords. But whilst the public health campaigns rave about the benefits, they actually stop short of providing the support necessary for mothers to achieve successful breastfeeding.
And Breastfeeding can be hard to accomplish during the first couple of weeks postpartum– especially with your first baby. There will be days when you think it’s going OK, and then days when you need extra support. Days when your baby won’t stop crying, or will be reluctant to feed, or your nipples will be so sore you’ll dread the next feed. And because you will be feeding 8-12 times over 24 hours, every 24 hours, it is relentless. And it’s hard. No wonder mothers switch to artificial formula.
But in switching to formula, parents blame themselves. How often have I heard ‘I really wanted to breaastfeed, but couldn’t do it’, or ‘my baby preferred formula to my breastmilk’
It is not right, or fair, for a parent to feel the pain of any implication that they have ‘failed’, or experience the trauma of trying very hard to breastfeed and not succeeding.
And this makes me sad. Because most mothers and baby’s are able to breastfeed …… with the right support.
But the right support is not always available. Until now…
Unicef’s ’Call to Action’ acknowledges that breastfeeding support is a collective responsibility of all of us –midwives, lactation consultants, paediatricians, health visitors, government and last but not least, media. No longer will the responsibility for successful breastfeeding lie in the laps of parents and a handful of lactation consultants, under resourced midwives and health visitors. It is a collective responsibility and parents need to know that it is a societal issue.
So call the midwife/lactation consultant by all means, but call the government and call the media, so that we can all provide the support that parents in their infant feeding decisions.
Call the media: to prohibit aggressive and harmful marketing of artificial formula, by adopting in full the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Subsitutes
Call the government: to develop a comprehensive National infant feeding Strategy and implementation plan
Call the health service – to implement evidence based initiatives that support best practice across all maternity, health visiting, neonatal and childrens centre services.
Together, we need strive to remove the barriers that currently stop women who want to breastfeed from doing so.
Barbara Smith is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Midwife covering South East London and North Kent. She can provide you with support, encouragement and up-to-date information to enable you to breastfeed your baby confidently and successfully. For more information or details of how Barbara can help you please visit her website here
- Unicef . The Baby Friendly Initiative(2106) Protecting Health and Saving Lives: A Call to Action. www.unicef.org.uk
- WHO (1981) International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Geneva. WHO http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/infntfeeding/924154601/en/