The Infant Feeding Survey is being cancelled. Why should you care?

I learnt this week that the Government is cancelling the Infant Feeding Survey for 2015, something I’m actually horrified about.

The leading breastfeeding support charities in the UK, along with Doula UK, are urging the Government to reverse this decision and they are asking supporters to contact their MPs about this.

But why should you care?

The UK Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) has been conducted every five years since 1975. The 2015 IFS would have been the ninth national survey of infant feeding practices to be conducted. The main aim of the survey was to provide estimates on the incidence, prevalence, and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers in the first eight to ten months after their baby was born.

The IFS provides hugely important information for anyone needing to develop policies or do research on infant feeding in the UK, as well as providing an update on how policies and the state of the UK are impacting on infant feeding.

The last IFS suggested that improvements in breastfeeding rates are stagnating and we may actually be losing ground. In cancelling the survey, the Government, intentionally or not, will be preventing there being any evidence that policies over the last few years (such as the loss of funding to Childrens Centre that has seen vital breastfeeding support services close and the ongoing shortage and over-stretching of midwives in England) have had a negative impact on whether mothers are able to breastfeed their babies.

The evidence – such as that provided by past IFS! – is that most new mums in the UK initiate breastfeeding, but less than half are breastfeeding by the time baby is 6 weeks old. Many mums would breastfeed, but do not get the support they need to do so. Stats from the IFS are used SO much when proving the need for projects that can provide better support for mums.

As the joint statement from the leading UK breastfeeding support charities says:

 “The IFS is a unique and crucial data source that informs what we and many other early years’ organisations do. The internationally recognised, robust information collected by the IFS helps us target support in appropriate areas, using suitable resources and interventions as well as giving a view of impact of interventions and education over time, particularly for families least likely to breastfeed or introduce solid food when not developmentally ready. “

The cancellation of the IFS also further signals the slippage of breastfeeding down the public health agenda.

This isn’t about whether you breastfed your babies or not, and whether you’re 100% happy with that journey. It’s about our Government signalling that they don’t care about how babies are fed, when they really really should. On a population level how babies are fed affects health, it affects the sustainability of the NHS, so many things.

So please, email your MP.

It doesn’t take long. Use https://www.writetothem.com/, enter your postcode and write a short message to your MP. You can’t copy & paste, but can use phrases from the official statements or my own email (at the bottom of this post).

You can also email Jane Verity, Head of Maternity at the Department of Health on jane.verity@dh.gsi.gov.uk

Thank you.

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To see the Doula UK statement, see here:

http://doula.org.uk/content/infant-feeding-survey-be-cancelled

To see a joint statement from The Breastfeeding Network (BfN), Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) and La Leche League (LLL), see here:

http://abm.me.uk/joint-statement-cancellation-2015-infant-feeding-survey/

*****

Dear MP
I understand that the Infant Feeding Survey for 2015 is to be cancelled. I find this move both shocking and disappointing and am writing to you to ask that you ask the Government to reverse this decision.

The cancellation of the 2015 Infant Feeding Survey has huge implications for the provision of evidence-based support in the area of infant feeding, and so for the health of the UK. It is symptomatic of how far down the Government’s agenda infant feeding has slipped, despite the huge body of evidence that raising breastfeeding rates is vital to both the NHS nd the economy.

Doula UK and national breastfeeding support charities are urging the Government to reverse this decision and carry out the 2015 IFS. As my democratic representative, I ask that you please join them.

http://abm.me.uk/joint-statement-cancellation-2015-infant-feeding-surveyhow-to-write-to-your-mp-and-show-your-support/

http://doula.org.uk/content/infant-feeding-survey-be-cancelled

Yours sincerely,

Lindsey Middlemiss