Springburn Baby Foodbank is campaigning to establish a health visitor referral system that will allow families in need have access to free formula milk. 

Parents are currently denied access to free formula food from a food bank as it breaches breastfeeding guidlines. Health visitors are therefore unable to refer parents to Springburn Baby Foodbank because it provides free formula against the guidelines set out by UN children's agency Unicef.

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Noticing a demand for this type of support in the city, co-founder of Springburn Baby Foodbank Gemma Coyle tells the Glasgow Times: “The health visitor referral would be breaking every barrier because not every child has a family support worker, not every child has a social worker."

"Families are often scared to go to social work or other services because they think if they can’t provide for their child they’re going to have them taken off from them.”

“They’re ashamed and embarrassed, but everybody has got a health visitor."

"If the health visitor could be in the house having a chat and the parent could put forward that they’re struggling financially the health visitor could refer them on for help for their baby.”

“It cuts out so many barriers at it cuts the stigma of people feeling shamed for coming to us.”

Glasgow Times:

Gemma added that without the health referral service, she had mounting concerns over the health and wellbeing of parents, their young children and babies.

She explained: "Parents who are struggling are often watering down formula and that’s dangerous for the child."

"It can cause a lot of damage to the child because they’re not getting what they need! Sometimes Mums and Dads go without food too so as they can buy their baby formula.”

“Some women have health conditions which mean they can’t actually breast feed. It isn’t just plain black and white: there are so many different health reasons why women can’t breast feed.”

“There’s also single Dad’s and family members looking after their relative’s baby that need access to the formula milk because they can’t produce milk”

“We are trying our hardest to get the message out that there should be no shame in coming to a foodbank. We just want people to know that if we can help you then we will.”

The campaign was recently raised at the First Minister's Questions in parliament by MSP Bob Doris. 

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon replied: "Nobody should ever have to rely on charitable food provision in a country as rich as Scotland - especially families withg young children."

"That's why we're committed to eradicating child poverty."

"I will ask the health secetary to engage with the health board so as we can help with iterpritation of Unicef guidance if that is possible and also encourage a pragmatic approach regarding the provision of sustinance for infants which is so important."

Spingburn Baby Foodbank sees on average three to five referrals per day from all across Glasgow. 

Gemma added: “We’re getting people in contact with us not just in Springburn but from all over Glasgow. This service wouldn’t just benefit Springburn – it would benefit the whole city.”

“If we could roll this out to every health visitor in the city it would make a massively positive impact.”

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In a statement, an NHS spokesperson said: “Ensuring a baby has as healthy a start to life as possible is the absolute priority and underpins all recommendations made by Health Visitors."

“Health Visitors will refer people on to a number of nationally led and established initiatives which provide free, safe and consistent access to formula milk."

"Healthy Start, for example, provides advice and financial support to families during and following pregnancy."

"Qualifying families receive vouchers which can be used to purchase formula milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and regular milk. Families can also receive free vitamins to ensure their baby is as healthy as possible."

“Health Visitors may signpost families to baby foodbanks when appropriate, as the banks can provide crucial and immediate access to essential supplies for mothers such as nappies, wipes and breast pads."

"However, health visitors do not signpost mothers to baby banks for infant formula milk. This is because brands vary, and they cannot guarantee consistency, quality, or that professional support will be available."

"There are many types of infant milk formulas available on the market,and it is essential babies receive one appropriate for their stage and needs."

“We can confirm we are in discussions with Feed and are arranging a meeting to discuss and outline guidelines for health visitors and wider teams around support and links with baby foodbanks and the approach to infant formula milk.

“Decisions in relation to signposting to baby foodbanks are in no way influenced by international guidance on breastfeeding if the wellbeing of the baby could be placed at risk.”

To sign Springburn Baby Foodbank's petition, sign here.