New mothers who choose to bottle-feed their babies will now be offered the same help by midwives as those who give their babies breastmilk.
The new guidelines from The Royal College of Midwives have been put in place to try and put a stop to new mums being made to feel guilty for not breastfeeding.
The change of approach acknowledges the fact that many women cannot breastfeed, or simply choose not to.
In the past the RCM has urged new mums to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months – but with the new guidelines in place, midwives are being warned that they must respect the mother’s decision whether to breastfeed or not.
Organisations like the NHS and the World Health Organisation endorse the ‘breast is best’ approach, but this has been blamed for making women who want to breastfeed but are unable to feel inadequate.
Studies have shown that mums who are unable to breastfeed are up to two and-a-half times more at risk of post-natal depression.
Gill Walton of the RCM said the new guidelines would help ensure such mothers did not feel guilty.
‘We want to respect women’s choices and make sure they have the right information and support to either mixed-feed their babies or formula feed their babies,’ she said
‘We would focus on the risks and benefits of both breastfeeding and formula feeding – and help them do that – rather than say “Oh, this mother’s decided to formula feed, we’re not going to help her”.
‘That’s not right. Women have reported to us that sometimes the advice and support has been lacking to formula feed or they can’t breastfeed.
‘There’s something then about encouraging parents to positively parent and bond with their baby and not feel guilty about the feeding choice they’ve made.’
The RCM’s new breastfeeding ‘position statement’ instructs midwives to give women proper advice about formula feeding, including how to sterilise bottles.
While it still encourages breastfeeding, midwives must ‘support’ and respect’ women who decide against it.
It states: ‘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.’
The recommendations have been welcomed by parenting charities, such as the National Childbirth Trust.
Abi Wood of the NCT said: ‘Parents need information and support for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding and it’s up to them to decide how to feed their babies, so we wholeheartedly support the RCM’s new statement, which tallies with our position.’