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Women’s healthcare charities urge “extreme caution” over study re: infant feeding method and SEN

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06 April 2023

Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of the women’s healthcare charity BPAS, said:

“This study implies to women parenting children with special educational needs that how they fed them may explain their challenges. The reality is much more complex: boiling it down to feeding choices sends an offensive and unhelpful message around responsibility to mothers, and we urge extreme caution as to how the findings of this study are disseminated.”

Dr Rosie McNee, co-founder of the infant feeding charity Feed, said:

“We have significant concerns around the methodology of this study. We know children's educational needs correspond to their parents’ educational needs, something which parents have no control over and yet, this paper did not account for this fundamental concept. This is in part due to the data banks used for infant feeding research which do not capture important information. Suggesting causation when all we have is an association, easily explained by factors that have previously been well evidenced, does not help either women or children facing significant challenges at school.”


The paper, Infant feeding method and special educational need in 191,745 Scottish schoolchildren: A national, population cohort

Study, was published in the journal PLOS Medicine here https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1004191



For further information, please contact Katherine O’Brien, BPAS Associate Director of Campaigns and Communications, on katherine.o’brien@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, is a charity that sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain.

BPAS exists to further women’s reproductive choices. We believe all women should have the right to make their own decisions in and around pregnancy, from the contraception they use to avoid pregnancy right the way through to how they decide to feed their newborn baby, with access to evidence-based information to underpin their choices and high-quality services and support to exercise them. 

BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, CRRC. Through rigorous multidisciplinary research and impactful communication, the CRRC aims to inform policy, practice, and public discourse. You can find out more here.