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Call to Action on infant feeding in the UK

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We call on UK governments to take four key steps to enable mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish and to protect all babies from commercial interests.

In the UK, breastfeeding is a highly emotive subject because so many families have not breastfed or have experienced the trauma of trying very hard to breastfeed and not succeeding. No parent should have to feel the pain of any implication that they have not done the best for their child, but the UK context has become so fraught that conversations about breastfeeding are shut down.

Powerful new evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding provides a compelling case to alter prevailing attitudes and practices. Three ground-breaking pieces of research funded by the Gates Foundation highlight the practical, emotional and cultural barriers that still stand in the way of women breastfeeding and underline the importance of breastfeeding in improving health, saving lives and reducing costs in every country in the world, rich or poor alike.

We need to change the conversation around breastfeeding; it is time to stop laying the blame for the UK’s low breastfeeding rates in the laps of individual women and instead acknowledge that this is a public health imperative for which government, policy makers, communities and families all share responsibility. We are calling on UK and devolved governments to implement four key actions to create a supportive, enabling environment for women who want to breastfeed, and to protect all babies, whether breast or formula fed, from harmful commercial interests.

Read the Call to Action

We call on UK governments to:

  1. Develop a National Infant Feeding Strategy Board in each of the four nations, including members from all relevant government departments and tasked with developing a comprehensive National Infant Feeding Strategy and implementation plan.
  2. Include actions to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in all policy areas where breastfeeding has an impact.
  3. Implement evidence-based initiatives that support breastfeeding, including the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, across all maternity, health visiting, neonatal and children’s centre services.
  4. Protect babies and their families from harmful commercial interests by adopting, in full, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (“the Code”).

Together, these four steps can help normalise and support breastfeeding, and enable parents to make informed choices about infant feeding.

Campaign updates

  • August 2018: Our survey of Infant Feeding Leads highlights how changes to services are impacting on their ability to implement the Baby Friendly standards.
  • January 2018: We’re working with English, Scottish and Welsh governments on the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly project, designed to explore breastfeeding support in the UK and recommend how to improve it.
  • December 2017: UNICEF UK hosted an event for MPs to pledge support for the Call to Action. This was highly successful with 45 MPs attending.
  • July 2017: Our survey of Infant Feeding Leads highlights worrying cuts to infant feeding support. See the survey results.

Find out more

Call to Action Step 1: National Infant Feeding Strategy Board

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Call to Action Step 2: Protect and promote breastfeeding in policy

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Call to Action Step 3: Initiatives to support breastfeeding

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Call to Action Step 4: Protect babies from harmful commercial interests

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The Lancet: Increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent over 800,000 child deaths every year

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The state of infant feeding support services for mums and babies

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