‘Mums finally free to feed their babies without fear of breastfeeding bullies’

At last! Mums are free to feed their babies how they please without fear of criticism.

I don’t know which I feel more, anger or relief, at the announcement from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) that mothers who choose to bottle feed their babies must be respected.

What took them so long to realise their rigid adherence to a policy of pressuring women to breastfeed was cruel and heartless?

Legions of bottle-feeding mothers have been humiliated and made to feel failures, guilt and shame by hard core midwives and health visitors who toed the party line and used “breast is best” as a whip to subjugate new mums.

Yes, of course breast is best. But the job of health care professionals (HCPs) is to inform and support not coerce.

Once informed, every mother has the right to choose how to feed her baby free of guilt. And what’s more, to be instructed on how to prepare bottles and bottle feed her infant, something I know many HCPs failed to do in the past.

In its new position statement RCM says: “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.”

Gill Walton, the RCM chief executive says: “We recognise that some women cannot or do not wish to breastfeed and rely on formula milk.

“They must be given all the advice and support they need on safe preparation of bottles and responsive feeding to develop a close and loving bond with their baby.”

So far so good, but it doesn’t go far enough. Years ago, when I wrote my first baby book, I championed new mums irrespective of how they feed their baby. No mother should be made to feel a failure for feeding her baby in whatever way she chooses.

Sarah McMullin, of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said that the new wording was welcome but the guidelines on breastfeeding were still outdated.

“At the moment it doesn’t feel
realistic for women to feed through days, weeks, six months, never mind two years,” she said.

The RCM is now all appeasement. “We know every woman wants the best for her baby and we want to be able to empower our members to support women to be the best they can be and enable them to make decisions that are right for themselves and their babies.”

But what about all those terrified mothers who were bullied and harassed by health care professionals making their lives a misery?

An apology would seem appropriate.

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