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The Ros Dodd column



A band of mothers has presented a 5,500 word online petition to Number 10 calling for the implementation of a National Breastfeeding Strategy in England.

The campaign group Best Beginnings says action is needed to tackle our low rates of breastfeeding, one of the lowest in Europe.

At the same time, doctors have warned that hundreds of babies may be suffering from dehydration each week because their mothers are too scared to bottle-feed them. They claim the ‘breast is best' message has left some new mothers reluctant to use formula milk even as a back-up when their tots are not feeding properly.

Paediatrician Dr Ganesan Supramaniam, who practises in Bushey, Herts, says many hospitals treat a baby a week for dehydration, while Clare Byam-Cook, a retired midwife and author of What to Expect When You Are Breastfeeding, says there is no question that lack of advice on breastfeeding was putting babies' health at risk and believes some larger hospitals treat three dehydrated babies a week.

As someone who breast-fed their daughter until she was 18-months-old, I have no doubt whatever that breast is best. It's natural, it's a great bonding experience and it's free.

I'm not sure we need a national strategy to encourage more mums to feed their off-spring themselves - such an initiative is about as likely to work as the government's supposed drive to curb childhood obesity while the supermarket shelves continue to groan under the weight of rubbishy, additive-filled ready meals - but I'm a good deal more cynical about the claim that hundreds of babies each week may be dehydrated through lack of milk from their mothers.

Breastfeeding isn't rocket science (although I accept it isn't immediately easy for some women and can be painful at times): it is what nature intended. None of us would be here if our distant ancestors had refused or been unable to breastfeed.

Apparent ‘attacks' on breastfeeding - which include constantly reinforcing the idea that society frowns on a woman offering her boob to her baby in public - echo the way the growing cloth nappy industry is shouted down by, one can't help but suspect, those who have a vested interest in so-called disposal nappy companies.

A survey last year sought to show that there is little difference - either environmental or financial - in going down the washable nappy route.

This is nonsense.

Cotton nappies are made of natural materials, they will save families more than £500 over two-and-a-half years and using them helps reduce the flow (eight million a day in the UK alone) of chemical-filled disposals dumped in landfill sites, where they take hundreds of years to biodegrade.


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