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