The APPG on Infant Feeding Inequalities brings together MPs, Peers, external organisations and interested individuals, and gives them the opportunity to work together, discuss the areas where support is needed and look at important issues.
It is chaired by Alison Thewliss MP. LLLGB have attended meetings since they began in 2015.
The Feeding Products for Babies and Children (Advertising and Promotion) Bill
One of the most important developments to come from the APPG is the Feeding Products for Babies and Children (Advertising and Promotion) Bill tabled by Alison Thewliss, MP.
The intention of the bill is to set standards, protect breastfeeding and emphasise the need for safe formula. Its intention is not to make formula feeding parents feel guilty but to ensure that future parents get the best possible information.
The Bill can be found here:
UK Parliamentary debate on protecting families from misleading baby milk marketing
Members of Parliament in the UK will debate the marketing of baby milks, feeding bottles and teats on Friday 24 February 2017 in the context of the Feeding Products for Babies and Children (Advertising and Promotion) Bill. The Bill passed its first reading on 16 November 2016 (when it was agreed to draft the law). If the Bill is passed, it will go to Committee stage for line by line scrutiny before returning to Parliament for the third reading, if approved at this stage it will go to the House of Lords for debate and approval there.
LLLGB was one of the organisations who supported the consultation on the Bill. We stated that we would welcome better regulation on formula milk and advertising. We feel that companies should not be able to make misleading claims or act in any way that might confuse mothers.
We totally support the right of parents to have accurate, impartial information.
We also feel that one area which needs looking at is companies who target new mothers appearing to offer breastfeeding support, while subtly undermining it.
APPG meeting – Tuesday 15 November, 2016
Presentation: Human Milk Banks and Use of Donor Human Milk
Gillian Weaver gave a presentation on human milk banks. There are 550 milk banks globally with around 200 in Brazil and 206 in Europe, with more in planning stages. New Zealand recently started their first milk bank and Iran and Vietnam are also just starting up.
Bar code tracking has recently been introduced to some milk banks in the UK; many milk banks are helped by Blood Bikes who offer an amazing service distributing donor milk at short notice and free of charge, this has made a big difference to the service offered to remote areas.
Gillian talked about the need for donor milk and mothers to donate it.
Gillian recently wrote a post for us, with Dr Natalie Schrenker, about a new milk bank:
Hearts in the Right Place.
Also see our post on Sharing Breastmilk
No Common Guidelines
The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) says that after a mother’s own milk, donor milk is the next choice, followed by formula. However it does say that the milk should be from an official milk bank.
Although there are no common guidelines across the globe, milk banks in the UK use NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines. However, this doesn’t include guidelines on how the milk is used after leaving the milk bank.
There is an increasing demand for donor breastmilk as its use can reduce the length of a baby’s stay in a special care unit (SCU) and increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding on discharge. The only reason it is not used more is down to availability, not cost.
Presentation: Hospital Admissions
Phyll Buchanan has been looking at how infant admissions to hospital relate to infant feeding. Patients are assigned codes on admission making it possible to look for patterns.
There are vast regional differences in breastfeeding rates but Phyll has found that breastfeeding is a natural safety net. From the statistics she studied she found that re-admissions in the first 14 days were not related to breastfeeding.
Any other business
It was noted that once claims about breastfeeding were put into professional medical papers they were very hard to challenge.
Concern was also expressed at the huge growth in the follow-on formula market.
APPG meeting – Tuesday 21 February 2017
This meeting was also held at the House of Commons and chaired by Alison Thewliss, MP.
Kenny Gibson, Head of Commissioning (NHS England) sent his apologies. However those present were able to discuss the fact that support for breastfeeding mothers is still inadequate.
Presentation: the situation in Scotland (NHS)
Leigh-Ann Johnstone gave a presentation on her work as a Breastfeeding Support Worker in a neo-natal unit (NNU) in Lanarkshire. She gives emotional and practical support to mothers. She also organises ante-natal talks within the Maternity Unit and there is some follow-up support on discharge.
Leigh-Ann has managed to make a real change to attitudes, encouraging kangaroo care and the expression of breastmilk. She also liaises with the donor milk bank.
Within Lanarkshire the overall breastfeeding initiation rate is 44% but within the unit 50% of women express within six hours, and 92% within 24 hours. Expressed breastmilk is seen as medicinal.
Mothers really appreciate the support they are getting.
One attendee noted that this support is also needed in Children’s Hospitals.
Report by Anna Burbidge