Arabnews24.ca:Monday 5 December 2022 09:05 PM: Babies from vulnerable families are at risk of malnutrition with the soaring cost of infant formula leading to unsafe feeding practices, charities have warned.
The cost of formula has surged over the past year - with the price of the cheapest brand increasing by 22%, according to analysis by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
Currently, Healthy Start vouchers provide women in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who are pregnant or have young children with £8.50 a week to buy nutritious food.
But rising prices mean the vouchers are no longer enough to pay for the amount of infant formula needed to safely feed a baby in the first six months of their life, BPAS said.
Charities are calling on the government to increase the value of the Healthy Start allowance from £8.50 to £10 a week for infants "to more realistically support families with formula-dependent infants".
BPAS chief executive Clare Murphy said: "We know that families experiencing food poverty resort to unsafe feeding methods, such as stretching out time between feeds and watering down formula.
"The government cannot stand by as babies are placed at risk of malnutrition and serious illness due to the cost of living crisis and the soaring price of infant formula.
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"The government must increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to protect the health of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society."
The largest food bank networks currently have policies in place that prevent their food banks from redistributing formula donations.
And UNICEF guidelines, which have been backed by the UK government, leave food banks reluctant to hand out formula.
UNICEF said that "while on the surface" food banks "seem like a practical solution", handing out formula "can be a risky practice that can inadvertently cause harm".
Michelle Herd, co-founder of baby bank AberNecessities, based in the northeast of Scotland, said: "We have seen an enormous increase in referrals for parents struggling to feed their little ones due to the soaring prices of formula milk.
"We need to make sure that infant formula is available to families who need it, whether that be through food banks and baby banks.
"In addition, the government must investigate rising costs, particularly for vital products such as infant formula.
"Our fear is that without access to this basic essential, we will see babies in hospital, malnourished."
Mumsnet founder and chief executive Justine Roberts said: "The government must act urgently to ensure no parent struggles to feed their baby this winter."