Breatsfeeding mums accuse hospital of giving babies formula milk without consent
- Credit: Infant Feeding APPG
Newham mums campaigning for better conditions at Newham Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) have taken their grievances to parliament.
The mums say women are hidden away while breastfeeding and formula milk is given without their consent.
Karis White is a leading figure in the group, called Newham Mums Unite. Her son was treated at the NICU and experienced the problems first hand.
She told the Infant Feeding All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) about her time at the NICU.
She says the mums are frustrated at the level of action they’re seeing from the hospital and want to see what could be done at Westminster.
“It was partly out of curiosity—I’ve never ever been to parliament.
“It was more to see how it works and how I can use this tool to further the campaign.”
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“I don’t underestimate or want to undermine the colossal task that it must be to change the culture [at the hospital], but at the end of the day, we’re all getting a bit annoyed with this.
“It’s just gone on for too long now, we’ve heard these excuses at so many meetings.”
Karis and another Newham mum, Carolyn Hounsell, have met with senior figures from the trust that runs Newham Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust.
At one of those meetings, both of the women heard the senior nurse on the NICU say that screening breastfeeding women and putting them in a corner if they don’t want a screen is normal practice at the unit.
Alison Thewliss is MP for Glasgow Central and chairs the APPG.
“Karis’ story of her experience at Newham Hospital is a really shocking example of the wellbeing of mums and babies not being prioritised, even in a neonatal ward,” she said.
“We have welcomed NHS England’s commitment in their Ten Year Plan to ensuring that all maternity services strive towards UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation. The stated aims are to support parents to have a close and loving relationship with their baby, to enable babies to have breastmilk and to enable mothers to breastfeed where possible, and to value parents as partners in care.”
Ms Thewliss added: “It sounds as though Newham Hospital is failing on these benchmarks, and the APPG will be happy to support Newham Mums Unite in encouraging them to do better.”
Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, also attended the meeting to show his support.
The Newham mums will be presenting their efforts to the APPG in full at the next meeting in May.
A spokeswoman for the trust said it had offered a ‘full and unreserved’ apology to mums in Newham and that it was grateful for bringing the issues to its attention.
She added the hospital has but up posters in the NICU assuring mums of their right to breastfeed in public and to ensure staff are asking women about their feeding preferences.
The trust has also maintained that the trust does not force mothers behind screens, only when the women want more privacy to feed their baby.
While there are extensive written policies on infant feeding, the mums say they do not reflect their experiences at Newham Hospital.
The Newham Recorder has seen an ‘action plan’ to change the culture at the NICU and Newham Mums Unite say they will be closely monitoring its progress.