Chester mums have mixed feelings about the news the Countess of Chester Hospital is to stop providing formula milk for women bottle-feeding their newborns.
Starting from this month (January 2016), new rules on the Countess maternity ward mean expectant mums planning to bottle-feed will be asked to include a pack of their own formula feed in their hospital bag, following the example of other regional maternity units including Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
The new move will do away with the ready-made bottles of a chosen formula that have always been provided up to now, in the hope it will ‘encourage and support’ mums to breastfeed.
But it has sparked a lengthy debate amongst Cestrians about whether the changes will be more beneficial to new mums in the long run, with the Chronicle's Facebook page inundated with comments from people expressing their views.
Helen Fielding said it was 'absolutely disgraceful,' adding: "A lot of mums who go in don't expect to bottle feed and only do so as a last resort. If we hadn't been given formula then we'd have been completely stuck as we hadn't even thought about bottle feeding."
Ashlea Allen told us: "A newborn baby is a patient at the hospital in the same way that any other human being is, we wouldn't be expected to take a pack lunch into hospital and therefore it should not be necessary to ensure you already have formula.
"Rather than The Countess encouraging mothers to breastfeed, further efforts should be made to encourage expectant mothers to exercise their choice over this matter, rather than a bombardment of 'breast is best' that many women feel pressured by.
"Although it is emphasised that no babies will go without nutrition, it is a mixed message to send to expect mothers to bring their own formula, but not expect them to simultaneously."
Amy Tuteur @ATeuter tweeted:
But Jan Atkinson-Carr pointed out: "This has been happening at other (and very respected) maternity units in this region for at least 10 years. It's part of the WHO Baby Friendly Initiative to encourage new mothers to at least attempt to breastfeed. I whole-heartedly agree with what the Countess of Chester are doing."
A positive initiative
And Sharron Price Was Ridgen said she didn't see what the problem was.
"I breastfed both my babies and I would have probably taken my own milk in if I didn't. I would be more worried how they will store the milk and the bottles (sterilising them) who will make the bottles up etc. Maybe more mothers will decide to have their babies at home," she suggested.
Questions were raised about what the options would be if mothers experienced difficulty breastfeeding or were unable to do so for health reasons.
Bev Nicholas commented: "I know breast is best but what if for health reasons a mother can't breast feed? I suffered with bad migraines during my pregnancies and afterwards, sometimes twice a day. I couldn't breast feed because of that. I think the Countess should still provide milk."
'They delivered my baby - that is enough'
However, Louise Mahoney suggested it was 'common sense' to bring formula and said she wouldn't expect the hospital to provide it.
"I breastfed both but still took my own formula as a just in case," she said. " I'd never expect them to provide it for me. A lot of people think these things should be handed to them for free, if you choose to have a baby, it's your responsibility to provide for it once they arrive."
What was clear from many of the hundreds of comments we received though, was how highly the Countess' maternity ward is regarded.
Samantha Wheeler wrote: "The Countess delivered my baby on Christmas Eve. They provided me formula but there was no reason why I couldn't have brought ready made into hospital. They delivered my baby, that is enough why should they then feed my child on the NHS expense. I am so grateful my child was delivered with no problems with a fantastic midwife. They don't need to then pay for food. Completely agree that mums should provide their own."
Jenny Russell Prev Gorman added: "The support I received whilst in hospital with breastfeeding was excellent, in fact they offered me to stay in an extra night so that I could be sure I was confident with feeding, and I'm glad I did so as it made a big difference."
Susan Kinnear wanted to know: "Why do we always have to judge women who do or do not choose to breast feed?
"For goodness sake, some can, some can't, some are afraid to, some try really hard and it just doesn't work. The Chronicle is quite right to highlight a change in policy at the hospital and the hospital should try to make things as easy as possible for new mums."