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Hospital's 'artificial feeding' letter to mothers criticised

Bottle feeding a newborn babyImage copyright Getty Images

A hospital trust has been criticised for describing mothers who use formula milk as "artificially" feeding babies.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust made the comment in a letter that said it would no longer provide formula milk in its maternity units to mothers who had decided not to breastfeed.

One woman who said she had been unable to breastfeed said the letter's wording made her "sick to the stomach".

The trust said it would "consider carefully" feedback it had received.

'I felt ashamed'

Under the heading "What do I need to bring with me if I wish to artificially feed my baby?", the trust's letter said from 1 May expectant mothers who planned not to breastfeed would have to bring a first milk starter pack with them to hospital for when they gave birth.

It added that if there was a medical reason for giving formula milk, "this will be discussed with you and given if necessary".

The note was shared on Twitter by Kathryn Booth, who criticised its language and said mothers needed "support and understanding".

Image copyright @privateuni

Sharing her own experience, she said: "My daughter and I just couldn't somehow manage it either, and after days of being manhandled and just feeling awful and barely any milk, I have [given] her a bottle and the immediate difference [is] amazing. But at every turn in hospital, I felt ashamed."

Other Twitter users also responded to the letter.

Alis Roberts said: "This made me feel sick to the stomach. My baby couldn't breastfeed – I know that formula is 'artificial' but these things need to be more carefully worded when the whole baby feeding issue is so emotionally charged. Can't imagine how I'd [have] felt if I'd read this in hospital."

However, Kerry Collins said she did not see a problem with the term "artificial".

"I've fed four children, two artificially and two breast fed, so I'm not one of the breast-is-best police, but you can't change the facts – formula is not nature's way, but happy mum equals happy baby #dowhatsrightforu #dontbedefensive."

Image copyright @alis_lindlar
Image copyright @sugarpopzvicky
Image copyright @nursekerryc81

A spokeswoman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said its decision not to routinely provide formula milk to mothers who chose not to breastfeed was part of its commitment to promote breastfeeding, in line with the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative.

"We recognise that some new mums may not want to breastfeed and that some new babies may need to have their feeds supplemented, which we fully support," she said.

"We take the views of our mums and families very seriously, and will consider carefully all of the feedback on the wording of our information."

Breastfeeding levels in the UK have consistently been found to rank among the lowest in the world.

In 2016 a study found they were the lowest in the world, with just one in 200 mothers doing any breastfeeding after a year, compared with

  • 23% in Germany
  • 56% in Brazil
  • 99% in Senegal

Breastfeeding is good for the health of the baby and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers.

Follow Alex on Twitter.

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