Voters will go to the polls on 8 June 2017 to elect new Members of Parliament and so a new government.
Baby Milk Action has asked all political parties represented in national parliaments about their policies on infant and young child feeding. We are posting the responses we receive on this page. Click here for our full letter.
At the bottom of the page we tell you how to contact the parties that have not answered – or visit our Twitter stream and re-tweet our calls for them to do so.
Our two questions are summarised below.
1. Will your party protect parents from aggressive marketing by baby feeding companies?
Monitoring evidence gathered for the Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) shows that formula and feeding bottle companies and retailers aggressively market their products to profiteer from parents that use infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes. They also aim to expand their market by undermining breastfeeding.
The World Health Assembly calls for an end to promotional claims on foods for infants and young children because they generally mislead parents and undermine independent information from health workers, mother support groups and expert sources such as NHS Choices. The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints about claims made for formulas and feeding bottles, showing that companies are not reliable sources of information. Independent sources of information are available.
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant WHA Resolutions aim to ensure that these products are as safe as possible and marketed responsibly. Full details of the changes required to UK legislation to bring it into line with the International Code and Resolutions are contained in the introduction to the Look What They’re Doing in the UK 2017 monitoring report, which profiles the major formula and feeding bottle companies and retailers.
Will your party pledge to fully implement the International Code and Resolutions and introduce systems to ensure that products sold on the UK market are independently scrutinised for safety?
2. Will your party fully implement the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding in the UK?
The UK supported the adoption of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2002 and has renewed this support repeatedly at subsequent Assemblies.
The majority of mothers in the UK say they wanted to breastfeed for longer than they did. The policies required to support mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish are well known and set out in the Global Strategy.
The World Breastfeeding Trends initiative (WBTi) assesses countries on their progress in implementing 10 key policy areas set out in the Global Strategy. While there has been some progress, the overall score for the UK puts it towards the bottom of the table comparing countries assessed so far (of 84 countries assessed by 2016, the UK sits at position 66 with a score of 50.5 out of 100).
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Lancet Breastfeeding Series reported in January 2016 that the UK has the worst breastfeeding rate in the world.
Will your party fully implement the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding in the UK, thereby supporting mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish and improving the UK’s score in the next WBTi assessment?
Political Party responses (posted in the order received)
Green Party @TheGreenParty
A response is awaited from the Green Party, but is has already published the following policy on its website (last updated September 2016):
HE508 The Green Party recognises that breastfeeding has multiple short and long term health benefits for babies. Mothers who have breastfed also have lower risks of diabetes and some cancers. However, in the UK women who want to breastfeed often feel unsupported and most stop before they wanted to. Around a quarter of women feel unable to breastfeed for various reasons. For some people, there is still a stigma attached to breastfeeding in public. The law does not currently effectively stop attempts to discourage breastfeeding. Furthermore, artificial feeding products (‘formula’) are heavily promoted. These, along with the equipment they require, may interfere with the initiation or continuation of breastfeeding.
HE509 The Green Party will work to ensure that:
i. Pregnant women are given the facts about how to breastfeed, and also the benefits and challenges of breastfeeding so that they can make an informed choice about how to feed their babies.
ii. Hospitals provide the counselling and advice by trained NHS staff to enable breastfeeding to be established straight after birth, should the mother wish to breastfeed. Special help will be given to women immediately after birth if they are in pain, ill, or exhausted by a difficult labour. Disabled women and those with babies with special needs will be given specialist help to establish breastfeeding.
iii. It becomes an offence to stop nursing mothers from breastfeeding their children in public places (including the breastfeeding of toddlers in premises where children are already allowed). Businesses that break the law, or whose employees break the law, will face significant fines.
Public buildings and shops are encouraged to provide breastfeeding facilities for women who wish to breastfeed in a private, comfortable, quiet place. Councils are required to provide breastfeeding facilities in all their significant buildings open to the public, such as town halls and libraries.
iv. breastfeeding mothers who return to work are made aware of, and encouraged to take advantage of, their legal right to take breastfeeding breaks.
v. Steps be taken in order to normalise breastfeeding, including improving education in schools, public awareness campaigns, and reassurances given by breastfeeding counsellors regarding the legitimacy of public breastfeeding.
vii. The provision of enough around the clock breastfeeding counselling services to support women who have problems with breastfeeding, and expand the networks of breastfeeding mothers set up locally for women to be able to give each other help.
HE510 The Green Party will institute a complete review of the regulations regarding the promotion of artificial feeding products and the accompanying equipment to make it possible for families to make decisions about infant feeding without commercial pressure. We will support in full the implementation of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and the subsequent WHA resolutions. Powers would be allocated to the appropriate bodies to enforce the regulations, with education as needed for Food Standards Agency and Local Authority staff.
HE511 The Green Party will regulate to ensure that all health care settings (hospital and community) achieve Baby Friendly status, as established by UNICEF.
Alliance Party – @allianceparty
Health spokesperson, Paula Bradshaw replied on 29 May 2017:
I see no reason we would not support you on both of these – of course, in practice, the first is UK-wide (at least in practice) and the second is largely devolved.
Please get in touch again after polling day regardless of outcome.
Paula Bradshaw MLA
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Alliance Party, South Belfast
UKIP – @UKIP
— Baby Milk Action (@babymilkaction) June 1, 2017
Plaid Cymru – @Plaid_Cymru
General email: email@example.com.
We support campaigns to promote breastfeeding whilst acknowledging that parental peferences should be respected. #plaid17
— Sian Gwenllian AC/AM (@siangwenfelin) June 1, 2017
Agree information about feeding should be independent & accurate
— Sian Gwenllian AC/AM (@siangwenfelin) June 1, 2017
Liberal Democrats – @LibDems
Health spokesperson, Norman Lamb.
Thank you for enquiring about the Liberal Democrats’ position on early child nutrition and breastfeeding.
The Liberal Democrats have long championed and supported women who choose to breastfeed. It should be up to each parent to decide what is right for them, and no woman should be made to feel uncomfortable or stigmatised for something that is completely natural.
We welcome the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and related resolutions to guarantee the safety and appropriate marketing of substitute products. It is important that pregnant women and new mothers are provided with independent and evidence-based information about breastfeeding and alternatives such as formula milk, to allow them to make an informed decision in the best interests of mother and child.
I can also confirm the Liberal Democrats’ support for the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. We will pursue the recommendations of the Strategy in the next parliament, along with concerns about the UK’s score in the WBTi assessment regarding the low levels of breastfeeding in the UK compared with other countries.
With best wishes,
Parties still to reply (in alphabetical order)
You can contact the national party using the Twitter addresses given below.
You can find the names of the candidates standing in your constituency by entering your postcode on the Electoral Commission website. Search for the candidate name and party using a search engine to find their contact details so you can ask them if they will support the necessary action.
Conservative Party – @Conservatives
Democratic Unionist Party – @duponline
Green Party – @TheGreenParty
Health spokesperson, Larry Sanders. General email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Labour Party – @LabourParty
Health spokesperson, Jon Ashworth. Twitter: @JonAshworth
Plaid Cymru – @Plaid_Cymru
No health spokesperson identified. General email: email@example.com.
Scottish National Party – @theSNP
No health spokesperson identified. General email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Democratic and Labour Party – @SDLPlive
UKIP – @UKIP
Health spokesperson, Suzanne Evans. General email: email@example.com.