A meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infant Feeding and Inequalities took place on Tuesday 15 May 2018 at The House of Commons and was chaired by Alison Thewliss MP. The APPG brings together MPs, Peers, external organisations, policy stakeholders and interested individuals, giving them the opportunity to work together and discuss important issues related to infant feeding, including areas where support is needed. Its aim is to make sure infant feeding remains a priority for HM Government with a view to reducing inequalities and improving health.
Review of correspondence, media engagements and parliamentary questions.
Alison had been involved in numerous discussions since the last meeting and these were shared with the meeting.
1.How does the SNP support pregnant women and new parents?
The SNP has established a working group to look at pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace, and at Westminster it will use EU laws to fight for the rights of pregnant and new mothers. The SNP is planning to support families at key stages of a child’s life and has implemented several strategies to make sure families get the resources they need. The party intends to increase resources for breastfeeding, particularly in the days after birth.
2.Complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency about Aptamil
Correspondence was shared about a complaint to ASA about an advert in which Aptamil said “we believe new experiences build resilience”. It was a good example of how advertising can by-pass health recommendations to continue breastfeeding once solid food has been started.
Alison had raised a question with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as to guidance issued to local authorities on the safety of propped bottle feeder products. Andrew Griffiths had replied that they advised a baby should never be left alone with a propped-up bottle, but that there was no specific guidance to Local Authorities and that manufacturers had a responsibility to ensure their products were safe.
Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Department of Health and Social Care had responded to Alison about the Healthy Start scheme.
Stephen Brine MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Public Health and Primary Care had responded to the suggestion that more controls were needed on the sale of “special formulas”. At the moment these products can be recommended by health professionals and are freely available to purchase. Helen Crawley, First Steps Nutrition, has proposed that these products be withdrawn from shelves and only be available on prescription.
4.NCT Report: The Hidden Half – Bringing postnatal mental illness out of hiding
The NCT has produced at extensive report looking at postnatal mental illness and what needs to be done to address the issues mothers face.
5.University of Kent
The University of Kent is working with the Yale School of Public Health as part of a global project to promote breastfeeding. They have formed three committees with the aim of completing bench-marking and standards to promote, enable and protect breastfeeding.
Presentation: Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action, “An update on the work of Maternity Action”
Maternity Action is a small national charity whose aim is to establish effective legal protection for women at work and establish better employment rights and benefits. Ros pointed out that women still have no official rights to facilities or breaks at work for breastfeeding. Women have some protection under Health & Safety laws which say that they should have facilities to rest, and that employers must access and manage risks. They also have some protection under flexible working and discrimination law. However, in the future the EU Pregnant Works Directive may be lost.
Under current legal protection, women have no right to an individual risk assessment, and there is no set timeframe for any assessment. There have been two recent court cases about a woman’s need to express milk at work, but there are no established case works.
There have been past opportunities to strengthen rights, but they didn’t get far. Women need the right to statutory paid breastfeeding breaks with proper facilities; however, often breastfeeding is not even mentioned in documents.
Maternity Action has recently launched the Alliance for Maternity Rights Action Plan and has asked that the Women and Equalities Select Committee look at pregnancy and maternity related discrimination.
A recent government survey found that discrimination in the workplace is higher now than ten years ago. The report states that:
“77% of pregnant women and new mothers experience some form of discrimination at work, compared to 45% in 2005. Each year, 54,000 women lose their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination. This equates to one in every nine pregnant women and new mothers in employment. 200,000 women face risks to their health and safety which aren’t satisfactorily managed and 100,000 are discouraged from attending their antenatal appointments. Another 100,000 women experience harassment from their employers or co-workers.”
Maternity Action intends to campaign for the end of unfair redundancy and the statutory right to breastfeeding breaks and facilities. Ros said women are going back to work earlier than they want to, because they are scared of losing their jobs. Some women are made redundant on their first day back after maternity leave, because this is when protection ends.
Shared Parental Leave
A review of Shared Parental Leave is currently underway, but breastfeeding is not featured, and it has been said that “it’s not about breastfeeding”. Patti Rundall, Baby Milk Action, said that in talks about gender equality breastfeeding is usually not mentioned. Ros said that the health impact of breastfeeding for mothers and babies needed to be raised.
The meeting attendees were told that if vets return to work when they are breastfeeding, insurers won’t cover them because they don’t know how any risks they encounter at work will impact on them.
The WBTi report covers ten different issues which need to be addressed, including the need for breastfeeding breaks at work.
It was suggested we need some examples of good practice in small businesses who are flexible and allow mothers to rest and breastfeed at work, and a scheme for recognising this. Maternity Action feels we need a scheme for better practice.
Sally Etheridge of Leicester Mamas CIC said more help was needed to support the rights of mothers in family law, and those going through a legal process.
Presentation: Dr. Helen Crawley, First Steps Nutrition Trust, ‘An Inquiry into the costs association with feeding babies in the first year of life’
Dr. Crawley talked about the plans to find out the impact that the cost of formula has on families. A committee would prepare a written submission and people would be invited to offer input. * It was expected a report would be prepared by mid-July. Mothers had commented that if they had more money they would buy “better” formulas.
The Food Foundation has launched the Children’s Future Food Enquiry, to look at food poverty. Helen said it will be interesting to see what it says about breastfeeding, as it is often left out of discussions.
Sally Etheridge noted that Lidl’s own brand formula has been withdrawn from the UK, and it was suggested that there is a move for supermarkets to sell more expensive formulas rather than their own brands. There is also a variation in the size of products which makes some look cheaper. Sainsbury’s has launched its own brand of formula and it will be the cheapest on the market.
Helen said that the First Steps Nutrition Trust is not allowed to know what products will be launched. The general public tends to have trust in formula companies and doesn’t ask questions.
Local authorities are still cutting breastfeeding support, and Oxford was mentioned as one place where provision has recently been reduced. It was asked if there was any guidance to local authorities on what worked in breastfeeding support. Helen Gray, WBTi and LLL Leader, said there was a lot of documentation on how much breastfeeding saved the NHS.
It was pointed out that short-term savings would lead to long-term detriment. Savings need to be visible to the Government, both in terms of money and lives and it’s society’s responsibility to make it happen.
The meeting ended on a positive note when Dr. Wendy Jones, Breastfeeding Network Drugs in Breastmilk Helpline, was congratulated on receiving a Point of Light award.
The next meeting will be on 10th July 2018.
*After the May meeting, the APPG on Infant Feeding and Inequalities launched an inquiry “on the costs of infant formula to families in the UK and the impact that the choice of infant formula, and the purchase of infant formula is having on the health, well-being and financial situation of families.”
They collected stories from a variety of sources connected to families, those who work with pregnant women and families with young infants, those who work with food banking projects and in community support.
The focus was on infant formula costs, how people choose an infant formula brand and the impact of the cost on the health, well-being and finances of formula feeding families. The research is being collated.
Report by Anna Burbidge, May 2018