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Mothers want more time with midwives

Posted: 23 May 2014 by Hollie Ewers

Survey reveals mothers don’t feel they have enough breastfeeding support or information after birth.

Pressure points infant feeding
Almost half (43%) of mothers surveyed said they didn’t think they were given enough information about breastfeeding, with 55% saying they had very little, none or had to seek support from elsewhere.

The survey of mothers – carried out by Netmums in collaboration with the RCM – highlighted that while 80% of the women surveyed had wanted to breastfeed, only 57% reported that they had received enough information.

While in a separate survey in the same report, 57% of midwives questioned said they ‘would like to do more’ or ‘would like to a lot more’ to provide infant feeding support and help to mothers.

It was further revealed that about a quarter of both midwives and MSWs said there is not usually enough time or resources to support new mothers with important aspects of breastfeeding, such as latching-on and correct positioning. And nearly a fifth of the midwives reported that breastfeeding was not usually initiated within the first hour of giving birth, a crucial period for the mother and baby to bond.

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: ‘We are told constantly by mothers that they gave up breastfeeding before they wanted to because of a lack of support and information from health professionals, including midwives… It is clear from our research findings that many women will not be getting the help that they need to breastfeed because of time and resources constraints.’

The worrying findings were revealed in the RCM’s third report of five for its Pressure Points campaign, which examines whether maternity teams have enough time and resources to provide the postnatal care and advice needed by mothers, babies and families.

Cathy added: ‘We feel that breastfeeding is no longer getting the attention it deserves as a vital public health issue. There is no longer a national breastfeeding coordinator to coordinate England’s strategy or a national strategy, while Scotland and Wales have strategies. The financial strains that have been put on the NHS means we are seeing overstretched and demoralised midwives and MSWs struggling to maintain breastfeeding levels.’

Several recommendations have been made in conclusion of the report, which the RCM is calling on providers of maternity services to implement.

They include that providers of NHS maternity care need to recruit enough midwives and MSWs, particularly in England, to ensure that all women who chose to breastfeed get the support to initiate and continue breastfeeding. Support needs to be given to women equally, regardless of their chosen infant-feeding method. And to ensure that all parents who have chosen to bottle-feed are shown how to sterilise bottle-feeding equipment and ensure that they have a one-to-one demonstration about making-up formula feeds safely before they leave hospital, which would be in line with national standards.

‘Getting infant feeding right is a great way to give newborns the best possible head start in life,’ said Cathy.

‘We need more midwives and MSWs if we are to be confident that we are giving enough support to all women. Maternity care, especially breastfeeding support, is the earliest health intervention of them all and getting it right for mothers, babies and families is an important part of supporting families and building on the health of our next generation.’

The report findings come the same week as National Breastfeeding Awareness week (19-25 May), where the RCM and its Alliance Partner Mothercare have been hosting informal advice clinics for parents in Mothercare stores across the UK.

The event has also been supported by Public Health England on their NHS Choices website here.

To read the RCM’s infant feeding report and the two previous Pressure Points reports, click here.