New guidance for nurses on supporting mothers who choose to use formula milk to feed their infant has been published by the Royal College of Nursing.
The RCN said the guidance – Formula feeds RCN guidance for nurses caring for infants and mothers – provided an overview of formula feeding to enable health professionals to “support mothers who, for whatever reason, have made that choice of feeding”.
“Families need to have their rights and choices upheld”
It provides basic information to enable safe formula feeding, whether in hospital or the community, and details different types of standard formula and products adapted for minor gastro conditions.
The scope of the guidance is restricted to formula feeds suitable during the first year of life, noted the RCN.
The also guidance outlines the legislation governing the composition, advertising and labelling of formula milks – including first milks, “hungry” milks, follow-on and “goodnight” formulas.
In addition, it provides a summary of formula suitable for pre-term, allergy and faltering growth – as well as feeding guidelines and an introduction to tube feeding.
The college said it was targeted at children’s nurses, neonatal nurses, adult nurses, midwives, health visitors and healthcare support workers.
The RCN noted that it “unequivocally” endorsed World Health Organization recommendations that exclusive breastfeeding was best for the first six months of an infant’s life.
But it highlighted that “the best interests of the family have to be considered and when mothers choose to feed formula they should be treated with respect”.
“Families need to have their rights and choices upheld and any discriminatory attitudes and behaviours must be challenged,” stated the guidance.
“While nurses should continue to provide advice and to promote and support breastfeeding, they should also be able to advise parents and help with formula feeding,” the guidance said.
“Nurses need to have knowledge and skill with regard to the safe preparation and storage of formula”
It added: “Nurses need to have knowledge and skill with regard to the safe preparation and storage of formula and, without bias or promoting any brands, have a good knowledge of the different formulas available and the different situations in which these may be used.”
The RCN guidance also cautioned nurses about the rules they must adhere to when working in an area that has achieved, or is seeking, “baby friendly” accreditation status from the WHO and Unicef.
Nurses in such circumstances are reminded to ensure that mothers or their families are not exposed to adverts promoting formula milk, bottles, teats or solid food for infants under six months old.
“Consideration must also be given to the fact that the use of branded gifts with familiar logos, in front of mothers, may carry a subtle message that the health care professional is endorsing a product,” said the guidance.