Royal College of Midwives apologises after calling mothers ‘postnatal people'

A mother holding her newborn baby – Aleksander Nakic/E+

The Royal College of Midwives referred to mothers as “postnatal people” in new guidance before issuing an apology hours later for “erasing” women.

The RCM published “safer sleep” guidance for those sharing a bed with their newborns and for helping them get to sleep.

However, the guidance, published on Wednesday evening, makes no reference to “women” or “mothers”, instead referring to “postnatal people”.

The publication sparked a backlash on social media, and by Thursday morning it had been removed from the RCM website.

The guidance described key areas which healthcare professionals should discuss with families during pregnancy and following birth.

Referring to sleeping arrangements, it said: “Postnatal people in hospital should have easy access to the call bell system, be shown how to use it and ensure it is working – they should be provided with a bed-side cot for the baby to use while in hospital.”

The RCM, whose chief executive is Gill Walton, is a member of the embattled Stonewall Diversity Champion programme, a paid-for scheme that aims to help firms “become more inclusive of LGBT people”.

‘Huge oversight on our part’

It released a statement apologising for omitting women from the guidance, stating: “We would like to apologise that women are not mentioned in our recent safer sleeping guidance.

“This was a huge oversight on our part, especially as we are committed as an organisation to ensure that women are never erased from the narrative around pregnancy [and] birth. We have taken it down from our website while we revise and correct this omission.”

Milli Hill, self-described “outspoken feminist” and “champion of female biology”, criticised the RCM for “making no mention of women or mothers” and instead referring to “postnatal people … in spite of the fact that evidence shows safety differences if baby co-sleeps with breastfeeding mum/non [breastfeeding] mum/dad”.

However, following the RCM’s U-turn, the freelance journalist said it was “really important to support the RCM” because “in this highly sensitive area it is very difficult to publicly admit you have made a mistake”.

“There may be questions to ask about how/why etc but in my view today should simply be about 100 per cent support for them,” she said.

Maya Forstater, a woman who lost her job after saying that people cannot change their biological sex and who went on to win a landmark appeal against an employment tribunal, also replied to the RCM’s statement on Twitter, saying: “Thank you!”

Organisations desert the Stonewall programme

The BBC recently said it would leave the Stonewall Diversity Champion programme because its participation had raised questions about whether it could be impartial on issues the LGBTQ+ charity is campaigning on.

Other organisations including Channel 4, Ofcom, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Cabinet Office have also made similar decisions.

Freddy McConnell, a trans man and journalist, lost a years-long legal battle to be registered as his first child’s “dad” or “parent” on their birth certificate.

Responding to the backlash, Mr McConnell said: “It’s a shame when self-styled birth activists use social-media moments like this to further their exclusionary agendas, rather than focusing on approaches that keep all babies, birthing mothers and people, and their co-parents, safe.”

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