Charities have warned that an increasing number of vulnerable families will have to resort to unsafe feeding practices due to the rising cost of infant formula.
The cost of formula has increased over the past year, with the price of the cheapest brand up 22%, according to analysis by the British Pregnancy Counseling Service (BPAS).
Healthy Start Coupons currently provide £8.50 a week to women who are pregnant or have young children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; The BPAS says it’s for safely feeding a baby for the first six months of his or her life.
NHS guidance recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed during their first year of life. However, the figures show that most babies will be partially or fully formula fed by the time they are six to eight weeks old.
The Feed charity said families who can’t get enough baby food resort to diluting the product or feeding their babies unsuitable foods such as porridge.
The largest food bank networks currently have policies that prevent food banks from redistributing formula donations.
Guidelines issued by Unicef in November 2020 and backed by the UK government make food banks reluctant to distribute formula.
Unicef warns that food banks “on the surface” “seems to be a practical solution” and warns that dispensing formula “can be a risky practice that can inadvertently cause harm”.
The children’s charity warns that food bank employees and volunteers cannot support families in “feeding their babies as safely as possible,” as trained professionals such as paramedics and midwives do.
The NHS says cow’s milk should not be given to a baby under one year old.
Charities are calling on the Government to increase the value of the Healthy Start allowance for infants from £8.50 per week to £10 per week “to more realistically support families with formula-dependent babies”.
Clare Murphy, CEO of BPAS, said: “We know that food-poor families resort to unsafe feeding methods, such as extending the time between feedings and diluting the formula.
“The Government cannot stand by while babies are exposed to malnutrition and serious illness due to the cost-of-living crisis and the skyrocketing price of infant formula.
“Government must increase the value of Healthy Starter Coupons to protect the health of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.”
Michelle Herd, co-founder of baby bank AberNecessities in the north east of Scotland, said: “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in referrals from parents who are struggling to feed their little ones due to rising prices of jersey milk.
“We need to make sure that families who need baby food, whether through food banks or baby banks, are available. In addition, the government should look into the rising costs for vital products, especially baby food.
“Our fear is that without access to this basic need, we will see malnourished babies in the hospital.”
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder and CEO, said: “As our Mumsnet Voices Cost of Living Tracker has shown time and again, the cost of living crisis is affecting all families, but it’s particularly shocking to hear that prices for formula are rising rapidly. milk means some parents are struggling to feed their babies. .
“At Mumsnet we have repeatedly called for better infant feeding support for new mothers, but it is clear that we also need urgent practical action to support low-income families in these difficult times.
“The government must act urgently so that no parents struggle to feed their babies this winter.”