Friday, November 02, 2007

Little Angels are raising breastfeeding rates with one arm tied behind their backs

Today I was at the Little Angels Conference in Blackburn. Little Angels is an inspiring initiative arising from the community, providing breastfeeding counsellors to mothers. Since its start in 2004 it has grown to employ 20 staff, with 50 volunteers. Mothers have access to Little Angels in the maternity ward and after leaving hospital.

In an area where breastfeeding at 6 weeks was just 20% Little Angels are having a significant impact. Breastfeeding at 6 weeks has already climbed to 40%.

Here is one of a great range of posters which are part of their campaign.

You can order the posters at:

Recall that according to the government's national survey 9 out of 10 mothers who stopped breastfeeding by 6 weeks said they wanted to breastfeed for longer (as did 40% who breastfed for at least 6 months). More support is needed as well as cultural change. That is the aim of the Breastfeeding Manifesto, working for action in 7 areas. See:

I was there to talk about the need to protect a mother's right to independent information on infant feeding. Those using formula require objective information on the differences between those on the market and how to reduce the risks of formula feeding. This information is not coming from the companies.

Breastfeeding also needs protecting from aggressive marketing. Groups such as Little Angels provide support with one arm tied behind their backs because companies are able to target mothers with materials such as this mailshot from Cow & Gate.

This was sent to a mother when her child was 4 weeks old. She didn't recall what she had signed to get on the company's mailing list.

Targeting mothers with formula brand names and negative messages about breastfeeding at a time when they are likely to be experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding is a deeply cynical strategy. Unfortunately it is one that the authorities allow to continue and the law currently under review is unlikely to make any differences unless the advice of the government's own Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to strengthen the law is heeded.

For further details of the demands of health advocates see the report we have submitted to the government on behalf of the Baby Feeding Law Group and Breastfeeding Manifesto Coaltion. It is called 'Protecting breastfeeding - Protecting babies fed on formula' and can be found at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of my friends attended that conference too; she said she was in breastfeeding heaven!

I just can't believe that cow & gate leaflet. Makes me sick. But when I was pregnant and before I knew anything about breastfeeding I signed up for cow and gate mailshots (for the free cuddly cow, I know, the shame).

I remember they had a free helpline, and each leaflet provided snippets from helpline conversations.

One was from a mother who was struggling with nursing. The answer was - essentially - "you've done so well to get so far. Call one of the helplines, but if you can't continue don't worry, Cow and Gate are here to help with their lovely formula". Grrrrr!

We're hoping to do something similar to Little Angels here in St Helens.