The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health has today published new recommendations that women should be supported to breastfeed for as long as they want to. While I’m fully behind that suggestion, I can’t help feeling like this isn’t exactly a new way of thinking. It’s almost as though the RCPCH have just stumbled across the fact that the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, and despite their well-established links with the formula industry, are finally catching up with the rest of us.
Their report quotes UNICEF‘s five year old figure of a £40m saving to the NHS if women were supported to breastfeed for a little longer, and this is a compelling argument of course, but what really matters is respect and support for women’s choices, and societal change to make those choices realistic and achievable, so that no mother is judged either for her decision to breastfeed, or for her decision not to.
I do applaud the recommendation to normalise breastfeeding within the PHSE curriculum in schools, but having seen the cringey sex-ed video shown in Year 5, I would love to see this done in a modern, straightforward and unembarrassed way, preferably facilitated by people specifically trained in this sort of education. NCT Breastfeeding Counsellors, for example.
And yes, please do bring back the Infant Feeding Survey, for which funding was withdrawn in 2010, showing just how much of a priority breastfeeding is for policy makers at the very highest level.
Of course I am pleased to see large and influential organisations like the RCPCH talking about the barriers to breastfeeding in our society, and particularly so when there is such a strong media response, raising awareness across the UK. Now let’s see those recommendations put into action.