A report has recommended 8 priorities to continue the positive impact support for breastfeeding is having for mothers and babies in Scotland.
Commenting on the report Jeane Freeman, Health Secretary in the Scottish Government said:
“We need to remove the barriers that cause negativity towards breastfeeding, and to promote it as a natural and healthy activity, which provides babies with the best nutritional start in life.”
Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland from researchers at Kent and Yale Universities made its recommendations based on the following themes:
1. Strengthening and coordinating breastfeeding messages across Scotland
Recommendation 1: Develop and implement a breastfeeding advocacy and promotion strategy which brings together and builds upon activity happening at local, regional and national levels, in order to build awareness of and support for breastfeeding at multiple levels from community to government.
2. Reinforcing political will for breastfeeding among high level decision makers
Recommendation 2: To gain and maintain support from policy officials as well as other influential officials (for example, councils and the relevant Royal Colleges) in order to collaborate and formalise efforts for legislative change and advocacy for breastfeeding.
3. Ensuring consistent, long term government funding commitments underpin Scotland’s multi-component breastfeeding strategy
Recommendation 3: To build on the advances in Scotland’s breastfeeding rates and provision to date by ensuring ongoing and adequate funding is prioritised and protected for breastfeeding activities, coordination and maternity protections through core Scottish government funding structures.
4. Promoting a supportive return to work environment for breastfeeding women through greater awareness and application of maternity, employment and child care provisions
Recommendation 4.1: Extend and strengthen the opportunities for promoting best practice in supporting women to breastfeed when returning to the workplace and ensuring a fair deal for women going back to work in Scotland
Recommendation 4.2: Empower women to be aware of their rights regarding breastfeeding in the workplace, employment provisions and in all areas of child care
5. Strengthening, enforcing and monitoring legislation in Scotland that supports the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant WHA resolutions
Recommendation 5: Establish a long-term plan of work to strengthen the formula and follow on milk regulations, including full adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant WHA resolutions (‘The Code’) into legislation by strengthening and monitoring Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (Scotland) Regulations 2007
6. Developing coordinated, consistent and evidence-based learning outcomes across education and training programmes, based on role-appropriate competency frameworks
Recommendation 6: There are nationally coordinated, consistent learning outcomes for all groups who care for mothers and babies, both in service and pre-registration, and also volunteers and lay supporters. These outcomes are based on a competency framework for each group and underpinned by training and mentorship, supervision and monitoring; together these will ensure consistency for each group and appropriate, quality assured and standardised provision.
7. Ensuring families have equitable access to evidence-based infant feeding support when and how they need it through multi-component, structured models of care
Recommendation 7: Women have equitable access to high quality, evidence-based models of care through sufficient coverage, spread and awareness of audited and registered core, peer and specialist support providers. Well developed and maintained referral structures are in place to ensure women receive the right information and support where and when they need it.
8. Ensuring reliable, comprehensive, explanatory and comparable data on Infant Feeding for monitoring and commissioning purposes
Recommendation 8.1: Continue to collect and publish data on initiation and duration of breastfeeding up to two years, which includes exclusive breastfeeding and the initiation of complementary food (solids), in line with international standards
Recommendation 8.2: Establish a mechanism to monitor women’s experiences which is based on a quality improvement agenda and will assess the impact of interventions
The approach is based on a system of ‘gears’ first used by Yale University – when each gear is moving it facilitates a culture to become breast feeding friendly. A scoring system gives a ranking for each gear allowing policy makers to work out if Scotland is breast feeding friendly. Scotland rated ‘strong’ which means the political will is there to encourage mothers to breastfeed.
Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:
“This is a bold and welcome vision from the Scottish Government. It will support the progress already made around breastfeeding and point Scotland towards an even better breastfeeding future.
“It recognises that improving Scotland’s breastfeeding rates is not a quick, single action fix. It requires investment, planning, determination and the support and cooperation of many different organisations over many years to make it work.
“We have got to develop our systems and our society to support women to breastfeed so that breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a baby’s life is the norm. Most women want to breastfeed and we have to be doing all we can to help them do it.
“The more women that breastfeed and breastfeed for longer the healthier our population will be now and decades into the future. Breastfeeding can prevent illnesses in babies and children and it makes healthier adults.
“Midwives and maternity support workers play a crucial role in this. We have to ensure they have the time and resources to give women the best possible support before and in those critical first hours, days and weeks after the birth.
“Ultimately it is a woman’s choice about how she chooses to feed her baby and everyone must respect that decision. But, we have got to make sure that choosing breastfeeding is a realistic and attainable option for women. This report will hopefully take us a long way towards that.”
Reporter: Fiona Grahame