Monday, 10 January 2011

Formula free hospitals

I've just completed my time on the postnatal ward and now have a study week before I return to the Midwife Led Unit for four weeks. So far on placement, if the mother has been formula feeding her baby, she merely requested a bottle and a teat and it was provided for her - as of today this is no longer happening and I can't deny that I'm pleased not to be there this week as the changeover happens. What will happen now is that mothers who plan to formula feed, will need to bring with them a tin of stage one formula and two bottles. A milk kitchen is provided where new mums will be shown how to sterilise and prepare the bottles safely, according to guidelines. 

One of the most common issues I have seen with supporting new mums to breastfeed is time. Midwives are already stretched by busy wards and a less than optimum number of staff; that I can only be concerned by how much more time the milk kitchen will require from them. Prior to beginning my training I would have been 100% percent behind the plan to remove formula from hospitals but whilst I am still in support of this happening, I have a more realistic view of the challenge it will pose to the staff. 

I am in support because I think it provides a more accurate view of how bottles are prepared and the time that it takes. I also hope that a midwife may be less inclined to encourage "trying" a bottle when it's not as easy to just grab one from the cupboard. Of course, this all falls in line with all midwives being trained in breastfeeding support and how best to support women, which I certainly know is happening in both my placement hospital and my local hospital. I hope with the growth of accurate information being provided, more women will feel supported rather than pushed. 

I am however concerned about the women who are post caesarean section, unable yet to get out of bed, possibly even finding it difficult to sit up for themselves. These are the women that already need a lot of support - how does the milk kitchen work for them? I can only assume that there will always be some formula milk in the hospital for the women who go into labour prematurely, or come in without their bags. Will there be milk provided for the women who need a high level of support? Or the women who plan to breastfeed but perhaps change their mind, maybe it just doesn't work out for one reason or another? What will happen then? I guess there are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment. 

Is this a cost-saving exercise for the NHS or a move towards a society where breastfeeding is the norm? Can it be both? I am certain that there will be teething problems but I am optimistic that it will work out. I am ever hopeful that the breastfeeding support will increase, the breastfeeding knowledge will increase and women will feel more confident in their abilities. 

1 comment:

  1. Certainly does raise a few questions but if it increases breastfeeding rates then it surely must be a good thing. As for the post c-section mums one of the best things you can do is get out of bed as soon as possible (speaking from experience of 4 sections). So as long as they are not standing too long and they want to formula feed then making up a bottle isn't going to be that hard for them.
    Surely a formula free hospital should be just that - no formula provided. I'm sure mums-to-be will get warning of this too. As you say though I think the extra pressure it's going to put on staff is not a good thing but hopefully that where hospitals can use the skill of breastfeeding peer support workers and breastfeeding councellors.