Mums’ fury as hos­pi­tal trust calls for­mula milk ‘ar­ti­fi­cial’

Daily Mail - - News - By Kate Pick­les Health Re­porter

A HOS­PI­TAL trust has sparked a row by re­fer­ring to for­mula milk as ‘ar­ti­fi­cial’ in a let­ter to new moth­ers.

Worces­ter­shire Acute Hos­pi­tals NHS Trust wrote to new par­ents say­ing it will stop pro­vid­ing for­mula milk at its ma­ter­nity unit from May 1.

But it has been crit­i­cised for its use of lan­guage, with many ar­gu­ing that terms such as ‘ar­ti­fi­cial feed­ing’ are in­sen­si­tive.

One woman who had been un­able to breast­feed said the word­ing of the let­ter made her feel sick, while another said she felt ashamed for bot­tle­feed­ing in hos­pi­tal.

But others stressed that the for­mula is usu­ally made from pro­cessed cows’ milk and is there­fore a sub­sti­tute.

Kathryn Booth, who did not re­ceive the let­ter but posted it on­line, said moth­ers ‘need sup­port and un­der­stand­ing’ af­ter giv­ing birth. ‘It’s al­ready an in­tense, over­whelm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with­out feel­ing ex­tra pres­sure,’ she said. ‘My daugh­ter and I just couldn’t some­how man­age it, and af­ter days of be­ing man­han­dled and just feel­ing aw­ful and barely any milk, I gave her a bot­tle and the im­me­di­ate dif­fer­ence was amaz­ing. But at ev­ery turn in hos­pi­tal I felt ashamed.’

Alis Roberts said the let­ter made her ‘feel sick to the stom­ach’. She added: ‘My baby couldn’t breast­feed. I know for­mula is “ar­ti­fi­cial” but these things need to be more care­fully worded when the baby feed­ing is­sue is so emo­tion­ally charged. Can’t imag­ine how I’d felt if I’d read this in hos­pi­tal.’

How­ever, Jackie Toul­son wrote on Twit­ter: ‘It is taken from cows milk, pas­teurised then chem­i­cally al­tered with vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, and made into pow­der – most def­i­nitely ar­ti­fi­cial milk. Doesn’t make it wrong but it is de­scribed cor­rectly.’

Ex­perts say breast­feed­ing brings health ben­e­fits for both mother and baby, in­clud­ing im­proved bond­ing and boost­ing the new­borns’ im­mune sys­tem. Yet rates in Eng­land are among the low­est in the world. Only 34 per cent of mums give ba­bies breast milk at six months, com­pared to 49 per cent in the US and 71 per cent in Nor­way.

Re­cent fig­ures show that while al­most three-quar­ters of moth­ers start breast­feed­ing, this falls to 43 per cent when ba­bies are be­tween six and eight weeks old.

It is con­sid­ered such a prob­lem that the NHS has funded tri­als to see if in­cen­tives such as shop­ping vouch­ers could raise rates.

The Royal Col­lege of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health has pre­vi­ously called for chil­dren aged 11 to be given breast­feed­ing lessons at school. It sug­gests moth­ers should be encouraged and sup­ported to breast­feed ex­clu­sively for up to six months.

Emma Pick­ett, chair­man of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Breast­feed­ing Moth­ers, said: ‘Ar­ti­fi­cial milk is a term used widely in the health sys­tem. I doubt it was re­ally thought about here and I don’t think it means this hos­pi­tal is any less sup­port­ive of par­ents that choose for­mula milk than any other.’

The trust said in its let­ter that any moth­ers who would not be breast­feed­ing should bring a first milk pack to hos­pi­tal for when they gave birth.

A spokesman said it sup­ported mums who may not want to breast­feed and added: ‘We take the views of our fam­i­lies very se­ri­ously, and will con­sider care­fully all of the feed­back on the word­ing of our in­for­ma­tion.’

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