NCT response: Student midwife turned away from breastfeed class

Released on: 08 October 2012

In response to the article in the Mail on Sunday entitled 'Student midwife turned away from breastfeed class- because he's male,’ Belinda Phipps, NCT’s CEO, said:

"We are deeply disappointed by the publication of the article in the Mail on Sunday on 7 October entitled 'Student midwife turned away from breastfeed class- because he's male.'
"NCT does all it can to support the development of health professionals. On this occasion when a male midwife wanted to visit a women-only group, we offered him a number of all alternative options and did all we could to accommodate him. It's disappointing that he was not able to follow up these offers and that he chose to criticise those trying to support him.
"NCT is firstly and foremost a charity for parents and while we do support the training of midwives we receive no government funding to do this and it is not our primary activity.

"We listen to the needs of parents and do all we can to support them through the transition to parenthood. Women who seek breastfeeding support are often feeling particularly vulnerable and some may feel uncomfortable with a male presence. We respect the preferences and choices of women why is why we offer women only sessions for those who want this.
"We hope that the publication of this inaccurate article does not deter other health professionals from approaching NCT. Our branches have had many trainee midwives, maternity support workers and health visitors requesting that they observe breastfeeding support  groups and they are always treated in a very welcoming manner, as Christopher was."

Local NCT breastfeeding counsellors said:

"Local NCT breastfeeding counsellors in this area have for many years played a very active role in supporting breastfeeding education needs for hundreds of health professionals, including many from the University of Bournemouth.

"Both male and female health professionals have learnt about how to support mothers to position and attach their babies, to teach hand expressing and other breastfeeding support skills.

"This particular student midwife was given several opportunities of attending sessions at our breastfeeding drop-ins and at an antenatal breastfeeding workshop, where both men and women are welcomed. He declined to take us up on these invitations. 

"Women only sessions meet the needs of mothers who prefer, for whatever reason, to have a non-mixed attendance, and where the venue does not have a private room where mothers and partners can be supported together. 

"As a branch of the UK’s only charity dedicated to parent support, our first priority is the needs of parents – and while we are more than happy to contribute to the education of healthcare professionals, we do this out of goodwill and a desire to foster good relations, not because we are obliged to do so.  We have to retain our right to run the groups in the way we judge best meets our clients’ needs. On this occasion, it meant offering only mixed men and women support sessions to this student, and we are still unclear why he decided this would not be suitable for him."