Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Breastfeeding campaign update

Today I attended a meeting of the Haringey Breastfeeding Campaign. We held a demo outside St Ann’s hospital during the summer to protest against NHS Haringey cutting the borough’s one paid breastfeeding support worker…something they announced during national breastfeeding month!

It isn’t a case of cuts causing the lack of provision, namely because there’s no budget to cut. That’s right: NHS Haringey doesn’t have a budget for promoting and supporting breastfeeding. This despite the fact UK breastfeeding rates are low and have been for decades: 42% of babies are being breastfed at 6 weeks, 29% at 4 months and just 22% at 6 months of age. (It’s worth knowing that the World Health Authority recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, with breastfeeding continuing for at least the first two years).

Research from 2004 showed that 9 out of 10 women who gave up breastfeeding in the first 6 weeks said they stopped before they wanted to because they didn’t feel they had access to adequate support.

Haringey has in fact just increased the ‘drop in’ sessions in the borough, but these are funded by Sure Start…and we anxiously wait to see how that will be slashed by the current government.

But there is much the borough can be doing to encourage breastfeeding, especially if is wants, as NHS Haringey boss Tracey Baldwin claimed recently, to be accredited as having ‘Baby Friendly status’ as established by Unicef.

Just yesterday a friend of mine was breastfeeding her 2 month old daughter in St Ann’s Library (whilst reading her 3 year old son a book…what was that about women and multi-tasking?!). A male librarian asked her if, in the future, she would please ‘face the wall’ because they’d had complaints in the past. He also said that there would be some children coming in soon, so she better not get her tits out again. God forbid kids should see a woman breastfeeding! They might think it’s normal and think about feeding their own future babies that way! Just say no, kids…

In short, we’ve got a long way to go. The group of strong, opinionated and informed women I met up with today – who threw around ideas, facts and figures and brandished letters from our MP, often whilst breastfeeding a baby at the same time – left me in no doubt that this will be a successful campaign.


  1. You probably know that that librarian would have been committing an offence in Scotland:

  2. I do indeed know that - and did you know that since the law was introduced in Scotland, breastfeeding rates have risen. Makes sense. Green Party policy, introduced earlier this year (and written by yours truly et al) would copy the Scottish law, alongside other measures to encourage breastfeeding. So now we just need a Green government - we're working on it!