Green Party Women

Green policy strengthens support for breastfeeding

28 February 2010

Green Party's Spring Conference passed with enthusiasm a policy to encourage higher rates of breast feeding in the UK, researched and written by Green Party secretary Sarah Cope, following consultation with a number of Green Party women's groups.

The new policy addresses the well-documented health benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies as well as the environmental ones. Unlike formula feeding, breast feeding requires no water for bottle sterilisation, no packaging or transport.

Sarah Cope explains: “There will always be women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. But what we are doing is giving people access to high-quality information about the benefits and challenges of breastfeeding, as well as seeking to normalise it and protect women who breastfeed in public – who still, believe it or not, face opposition on occasion.

“A Green Government would provide for significant fines for any business whose staff tried to stop a woman from breastfeeding on the premises. This law already exists in Scotland, but in the UK all a woman can do is sue under the Sexual Discrimination Act, which most women would be unlikely to do.

"Back in November, my local newspaper, the Ham and High, reported that Elizabeth Simpson was asked to stop breastfeeding her 10 week old daughter Aimee by staff in the Freemasons Arms in Hampstead. Ms. Simpson was told that she could go downstairs or use the toilet.

“This is completely unacceptable and the Green Party's policy seeks to address that. The more women we see breastfeeding their babies in public, the more acceptable it will become, and more women will chose this way to feed their babies.”

Formula manufacturers spent around £20 per baby promoting formula in 2006, with a just 14 pence per baby being spent by the government promoting breastfeeding [1]. Although the World Health Authority recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, with breastfeeding continuing for at least the first two years,  UK breastfeeding rates are low and have been for decades: 42% of babies are being breastfed at 6 weeks, 29% at 4 months and just 22% at 6 months of age [2].

Ms. Cope adds: “I gave birth to my daughter Clementine three years ago at the Royal Free Hospital and was determined to breastfeed. However, I was pressurised by midwives to bottle-feed, and told my baby was ‘suffering’ because of my decision to breastfeed her. This despite the fact that posters all over the maternity ward declaring ‘breast is best’.”


[1] Breastmilk Vs 'Formula' food by Pat Thomas (Article in 'The Ecologist' magazine, 1st April 2006)
[2] Summary of the World Health Authority (WHA) Resolutions. Resolutions of the WHA Relevant to Infant and Young Child Feeding amending the World Health Organisation (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (2009)

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