It has long been recognised that breastfeeding is the ‘single most effective intervention’ to improve health and support human rights, while making excellent economic sense and reducing social inequality.
National governmental leadership in the UK and devolved nations could make a significant difference by making legal, policy and structural changes. These would filter down through every level of society to show ACTION for the shared responsibility of protecting and supporting every child’s human right to have the best start in life.
There have been Calls for Action before with slow or indifferent responses. The new Health Security Agency has an opportunity to fulfil its responsibility to the health of England’s population by making positive changes NOW.
A WBTi report identifies gaps and makes recommendations. The UK report in 2016 reported that, for Indicator 1, which covers National policy and whether there is an associated programme and coordination, the scores from the assessment were:
Sadly, the situation remains unchanged in England. It is TIME to invest and implement recommendations, which are supported by the broad alliance of infant feeding agencies who have come together to speak, with one voice, on behalf for all new families’ futures in this uncertain world.
Take ACTION on:
- Fully implement the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Subsequent Resolutions in law. If you are interested in knowing more about the story of the Code, David Clark, who was UNICEF’s legal adviser on the Code for 25 years, has written a four-part account of its history and future.
- Introduce legislation for breastfeeding/ expressing in every workplace.
- Require the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative to be implemented and maintained in all relevant settings.
- Establish a structure for monitoring implementation of the Code and that action is taken against violations.
- Create a multi-sectorial, funded lead, for Infant Feeding in England with a strategy and route to share best practice.
- Ensure full and equitable access to skilled support for every new mother.
- Build in improvements to monitoring and collection of data.
All these improvements would help protect the breastfeeding dyad much better and move much closer to the vision of all UK families experiencing a society that is supportive of breastfeeding with ready accessible skilled support available whenever is needed.
Author: Clare Meynell RM (rtd) IBCLC
Clare trained as a child & general nurse before a long career as a midwife and infant feeding lead. more than 25 years. Clare has also led La Leche League peer support training sessions in her local community. Currently, with Helen Gray, Clare jointly coordinates the UK WBTI working group and co presented the first report for the UK in Parliament in November 2016.
Working with her colleagues she hopes to create “Actions for Change”, through the WBTi report recommendations, so the next generation of mothers are enabled to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals and that society better values the health giving properties of human milk as the physiologically normal food for babies.