GPIFN Infant Feeding Statement

The following is a summary statement regarding best practice in infant feeding, to which GPIFN aims to adhere:

  • Healthcare professionals should strive to ensure that every baby is safely fed. GPIFN will signpost GPs to information on breastfeeding, safe feeding of expressed breastmilk and safe feeding of artificial baby milk (formula).
  • Breastfeeding is the biological norm and should be promoted, protected and supported as such.
  • An increase in UK breastfeeding rates has the potential to decrease health inequalities that occur due to socio-economic differences1. As such, breastfeeding and breastfeeding support are important public health matters and the collective responsibility of society.
  • Mothers who wish to breastfeed should be supported to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals and to reduce the likelihood of breastfeeding problems.
  • The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding alongside the introduction of complementary solid food, continuing to two years of age and beyond if desired by mother and baby2. Not breastfeeding and a short duration of breastfeeding are associated with comparatively poorer health outcomes for mother and baby in both developed world and developing world settings1, 3. Such risks should be explained to expectant parents.
  • Information given to expectant parents should be free of influence from commercial interest and should not imply a judgment about their decision-making. When parents make an informed decision on infant feeding, this should be respected and support given to feed their baby as safely as possible.
  • Mothers who plan to but are unable to breastfeed are at higher risk of postnatal depression4. Mothers who experience physical difficulty and ongoing pain while breastfeeding are also at risk5. GPs should be alert to such complications and offer sensitive aftercare when necessary.
  • GP Practice staff should strive to protect the breastfeeding relationship by considering breastfeeding when prescribing, arranging investigations and making referrals.
  • GP Practice staff and the Practice environment should be supportive of breastfeeding.
  • GP Practice staff should signpost to breastfeeding specialists and peer support services where appropriate.
  • Breastfeeding mothers, including those returning to work, should be supported to continue breastfeeding after the introduction of complementary solid foods or advised how to safely reduce or cease breastfeeding if they decide to do so.
  • Healthcare professionals should abide by the principles of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes6.


  1. Unicef: Preventing Disease and saving resources: the potential contribution of increasing breastfeeding rates in the UK October 2012
  2. WHO: Infant and Young Child Feeding Fact Sheet No 342 Updated February 2018
  3. Breastfeeding Series: The Lancet, January 29th 2016
  4. Borra C, Iacovou M, Sevilla A. New Evidence on Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression: The Importance of Understanding Women’s Intentions. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2014;19(4):897-907
  5. Brown A, Rance J, Bennett P. Understanding the relationship between breastfeeding and postnatal depression: the role of pain and physical difficulties. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2015;72(2):273-282
  6. Unicef: Working Within the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes- A Guide for Health Workers November 2015

Published April 2017, Updated October 6th 2019