Negative cultural attitudes towards breastfeeding are common place in the UK and often this is reinforced by media messages.
However, last night’s Dispatches programme demonstrated sensitive and robust journalism on the emotive and polarised issue that is breastfeeding.
The Breastfeeding Network is a charity that supports women and families in their choice to breastfeed in a culture that often treats women negatively for pursuing an unpopular choice.
The programme highlighted the progress that science and medical experts have made in acknowledging the make-up of breastmilk and the impact breastfeeding can have on infant and maternal health. It also looked at the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and how much care has to be taken to ensure breastfeeding is not undermined in health care settings. The lack of evidence-base for formula products’ claims to resolve sleep and colic problems is clearly misleading parents, exploiting families’ tight financial budgets and failing to resolve the problem.
The programme also highlighted the shocking truth that investment in health even where the evidence-base is strong does not always follow, nor can it compete with a multi-billion pound industry that seeks to dominate the choices of parents and families. Protection and scaling up of breastfeeding can only be truly tackled where we work together to create the environment to enable women and their families to choose it.
The programme spoke directly with breastfeeding women and allowed them to voice their concerns around the lack of support for breastfeeding – an issue that BfN are all too aware of – many of our face-to-face peer support services have seen significant cuts in recent months and years, meaning many families are no longer able to access good quality peer support in their local areas.
Many women featured in the programme also spoke out about their concerns around breastfeeding in public. Many women tell us that they worry about feeding out and about, feeling intimidated and worried about being treated negatively. The presenter Kate Quilton said she sometimes felt like a ‘social outcast’ – women tell us this all the time and that is why having peers in your community to support you is so critical for many women.
We were pleased to see the portrayal of the issues and the balanced journalism presented by Dispatches that reinforces the high quality evidence in the field of infant feeding helps us to continue to change the conversation around breastfeeding and move to its normalisation, so that more parents can feel they can choose to breastfeed.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised please contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 – open 9.30am-9.30pm 365 days a year.
The programme is available for 30 days on C4 catch up. If you only do one thing to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, please share this link with your local councillor and MP.