A lot of stigma faces mothers who choose not to breastfeed and instead raise their children using formula milk from a bottle. And while the phrase ‘breast is best’ is one that’s commonly quoted when talking about raising babies, the Royal College of Midwives in the UK has issued a new position statement making it explicitly clear that bottle feeding is a woman’s right.
While breast is still considered best, some women struggle to produce breast milk and have a torrid time breastfeeding, which is why, the college says, an informed choice must be promoted.
The reality, though, is that new mothers feel unfairly pressured however they feed their babies. Mothers who breastfeed often feel constrained when it comes to whether, where, how often and how long they breastfeed. Likewise, mothers who go down the bottle route feel judged or guilty.
Experts recommend that babies are exclusively breastfeed until the age of six months, after which time solid foods should also be introduced.
But compared to the rest of Europe, the UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding. While nearly every new mother attempts to breastfeed at the start, less than half are still exclusively breastfeeding their baby after six weeks. This drops to just 1% after six months.
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The RCM believes that women should be at the centre of their own care and as with other areas of maternity care, midwives and maternity support workers should promote informed choice.
"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.