MOTHERS who choose not to breastfeed in maternity units at three hospitals will have to provide their own supply of milk.

Mid Essex Hospitals NHS Trust is introducing the new policy from October to enforce the message breast is best.

Mothers who choose to bottle feed will have to bring their own supply of ready prepared, not powdered, milk formula.

The units in Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon will still provide bottles and teats.

Health bosses say it is in line with the Baby Friendly Initiative, a World Health Organisation programme promoting excellent care of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers and babies. The trust is working towards full Unicef Baby Friendly standards.

Denise Gray, lead midwife for infant feeding, said: “Breastfeeding helps women to bond with their babies.

“It is also well known that being breastfed as a baby reduces a person’s lifetime incidence of hospital admissions, infections and heart disease.”

The trust has organised new drop-in sessions and breastfeeding support groups. A spokesman for the trust said cash saved from not buying milk would be invested in these services.

Mrs Gray said mothers would be fully supported, whatever their choice, and milk formula would be kept at the units for clinical need.

Lou Painter, of the Dunmow and Braintree National Childbirth Trust, said: “The NCT promotes and supports breastfeeding as the best food for a baby. To do that, women need support to initiate breastfeeding and continue.”

Caroline Cattell, of breastfeeding support group Bosom Buddies, which operates in Braintree and Witham, said: “Studies have shown there are a lot of other hospitals which have become baby friendly and rates of breastfeeding have increased.”