NEW mums will no longer be given formula milk on the maternity ward at Burnley General Hospital, in a move branded as ‘ridiculous and unacceptable’ by health campaigners.

Bosses said the decision to axe their bottled milk provisions from November will help boost breast-feeding rates. It will also save up to £24,000 a year.

Mums who don't want to breastfeed, or have a problem doing so, will be told to bring in enough ready-made formula milk to last their full hospital stay, as the sterilising equipment and preparation facilities will also be axed.

The move will also affect the midwife-led birthing units in Blackburn, Burnley and Rossendale.

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “In the big scheme of things £24,000 is absolutely nothing. By all means encouurage women to breastfeed but it’s ridiculous to dictate to people how they feed their babies. It’s the hospitals’ job to ensure the child is properly fed until they leave the ward. That’s their responsibility.”

A six-pack of 90ml bottles of ready-made milk retails at about £9.

Mum-of-two Kath Gibbons, who runs yoga classes for pregant mums in Pendle and Burnley, said: “This does surprise me slightly because there might be an issue for mums who aren’t able to breastfeed for whatever reason.

“In an ideal world every woman would breastfeed but things don’t always work out like that.”

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “I find this unacceptable on a lot of levels, because this is a very personal choice for the mother to make.

“There may be a number of reasons why a mum can’t or doesn’t want to breastfeed. Newborn babies are still patients and they are entitled to be fed by the hopsitals like any other. And getting rid of the sterilising equipment could also create problems if someone runs out.”

Vanessa Hollings, divisional general manager for family care at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Like all other hospitals, we support the initiation of breastfeeding with all new babies.

“However, like many other hospital trusts, we will now be unable to provide formula milk and mothers will need to ensure they bring in their own provision.

“Research shows breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma and eczema and we are committed to enhancing the feeding experience and the closeness felt between a mum and her baby.”

She pointed out the trust recently received the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative award for the 15th year running, having promoted the importance of the relationship between mums and their new-borns, which has helped local breastfeeding rates rise from 27 per cent in 1998 to 70 per cent this year.

Formula milk will still be available to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the postnatal ward for high risk babies, when needed for medical reasons.