Male policy wonk decrees on breastfeeding

‘Breastfeeding by UK mothers rises from 76% to 81%‘ is the headline of a report in today’s Guardian.

It is, a Government spokesman tells, “encouraging to see an increase in the number of women who start breastfeeding”… Well, yes, most of us have managed to gasp, in his words, that “Breastfeeding is good for babies and mothers“,  albeit better educated mums are still much more likely than others to continue for any length of time.

So why has the ConDem administration announced that it has withdrawn funding for this year’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and for nine regional infant feeding co-ordinators?

The Government spokesman explains that:

The department recognises the importance of breastfeeding, and we continue to support breastfeeding through the healthy child programme, as set out in the public health white paper.

We have made the challenging commitment to an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015. Health visitors will be able to help support women who want to breastfeed but may find it difficult.

How a plan for health visitors in 2015 is going to support the current, 2011, success in establishing breastfeeding is left to us to ponder.

And how a Man from the Ministry feels able to spout such appalling piffle is, I trust, beyond comprehension of any thinking person.

Promoting positive public health messages is a long-term project.

A lot of children will be born between now and 2011; and most of those not to be breastfed are babies whose mothers, often already disadvantaged, currently aren’t getting encouragement and help because there are even at present too few support practitioners.

Here’s another example of the ConDems chosing actively and knowlingly to destroy accrued experience and good work by skilled professionals focusing on a fundamentally important issue – and all for the sake of a few bob and a cheap political hit. 

Sadly, this decree is of a piece with other recent policy shifts against good obstetric services and maternal immunisation programmes, and the pervading paternalism of discussions of parental leave.

I do wonder, would a mum who had breastfed herself feel comfortable pronouncing on this disgraceful policy shift?  I certainly wouldn’t.

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