Hospital trust criticised over ‘artificial milk’ letter

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A hospital trust has come under fire after a letter to new mothers referred to formula milk as “artificial milk”.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust wrote the letter to inform new parents that as of May 1 it “will no longer be providing artificial milk (formula milk) to new mothers” at its maternity unit.

The memo was shared on Twitter, leading to many users criticising the choice of language used.

One, Alis Roberts, said it made her “feel sick to the stomach”.

She added: “My baby couldn’t breastfeed – I know that formula is ‘artificial’ but these things need to be more carefully worded when the whole baby feeding issue is so emotionally charged.

“Can’t imagine how I’d felt if I’d read this in hospital.”

Another, Vicky Melville, wrote: “I think it would have pushed me over the edge.

“No matter how many HCA (healthcare assistants) helped, cajoled, held, intervened, we just couldn’t get my son to latch. I felt I’d failed him on his first hurdle and took a while to get over. I was devastated.”

Kathryn Booth, who posted the letter, said mothers “need support and understanding”.

“It’s already an intense, overwhelming experience without feeling extra pressure,” she added.

“My daughter and I just couldn’t somehow manage it either, 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.”

A spokesman for the trust replied to the comments on Twitter, saying: “We take the views of our mums and families very seriously, and will consider carefully all of the feedback on the wording of our information.”

The UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe.

Data from 2010 show that only 34% of babies are receiving some breast milk at six months of age compared with 49% in the US and 71% in Norway.

Figures for England in 2015/16 show that while almost three-quarters of mothers started breastfeeding, this fell to 43% when babies were between six and eight weeks old.

Social stigma is a major barrier to breastfeeding, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

It suggests mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed exclusively for up to six months.

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