This week is World Breastfeeding Week – an important initiative to help raise awareness of the benefits that breastfeeding can bring to people all over the planet.
Promoting breastfeeding is about giving mums the confidence to do what should be viewed as the most natural thing in the world, and that’s nurture their child to give them the healthiest start in life.
Removing the stigma around breastfeeding is also important if we are to build a more equal and tolerant society, free from outdated and negative views.
I am proud that in government the SNP is taking steps to promote breastfeeding as part of a range of actions to improve the health and wellbeing of babies and new mums.
Gillian Martin is the SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East
Here are just some ways that the SNP government is supporting new mums and babies.
1. The Scottish Government is working to improve already high breastfeeding rates.
Scotland is already the only country in the UK to have specific legislation in place that prevents discrimination against women who breastfeed in public. But we understand that legislation alone won’t change attitudes.
That’s why the Scottish Government held Scotland’s first Breastfeeding Summit, launched new NHS guidance and is introducing a Scottish infant feeding survey after the UK-wide survey was scrapped.
2. We are reviewing maternity and neo-natal services to ensure our NHS continues to deliver the best quality care for mothers and babies.
The Scottish Government set up the maternity and neo-natal review last year, which will look at giving mums-to-be greater choice in options for their birth, in the right place and at the right time.
3. We are giving every child the best start in life by entitling new parents to a baby box.
The baby box – an adaptation of the successful Finnish model – offers essential items for a child’s first weeks including bedding, clothing, sleeping mat and books. The box itself can be used as a basic crib or travel cot.
The package, which will be available free to all families expecting a baby, will also encourage more mums to take up ante-natal care – contributing to ongoing efforts to reduce stillbirth rates.
4. We are taking steps to promote and enhance maternity rights at work.
The Scottish Government is working to ensure best practice in employing pregnant workers by developing guidelines as well as including this in the Scottish Business Pledge.
The First Minister has announced that a ‘returnships’ programme will be trialled to help women who have had career breaks back into the workplace. ‘Returnships’ have being successful in the USA in helping bring experienced women back into their previous career after a break.
5. We will introduce a Best Start grant to help families meet essential costs of looking after young children.
We will use new social security powers to introduce a Best Start Grant to replace the Sure Start Maternity Grant – a policy that will benefit 12,000 new mums with children.
The Best Start Grant will increase support for new mums on low incomes to £600 when a child is born and introduce support of £250 when a child goes to nursery and when they start school. Payments of £300 at birth for second and subsequent children, previously abolished by the Tories, will also be reinstated.