In World Breastfeeding Week 2016 we, the undersigned, call on the UK and all devolved Governments to remove the barriers to breastfeeding and create a supportive, enabling environment for women who want to breastfeed.
The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Breastfeeding is viewed by many as difficult to achieve and largely unnecessary because formula milk is seen as a close second best.
The subject is highly emotive because so many families have not breastfed, or have experienced the trauma of trying very hard to breastfeed and not succeeding. The pain felt by so many parents at any implication that they have not done the best for their child can close down conversation, as well as leading to accusations that health workers put too much pressure on women to breastfeed. Whilst no parent should have to feel such pain, and well-meaning efforts to promote breastfeeding have at times been insensitive, the UK context has become so fraught that mothers, midwives and doctors who advocate for breastfeeding risk being vilified by the public and in the media.
Yet extensive evidence demonstrates that breastfeeding saves lives, improves life chances and cuts costs in every country of the world.
There needs to be a fundamental shift in policy thinking and public discourse around breastfeeding. It is time to stop laying the blame for a major public health issue in the laps of individual women and acknowledge the collective responsibility of us all. In response to low breastfeeding rates and substantial evidence, now is the time for change.
Together, we urge the removal of practical, emotional and cultural barriers to breastfeeding, and the creation of an enabling environment for all women who want to breastfeed. This World Breastfeeding Week, we support UNICEF UK’s Call to Action, calling on the UK and all devolved Governments to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.
IT’S TIME TO CHANGE THE CONVERSATION