A postal survey was conducted to gain information on the use of policies on oral intake, selection of mothers and type of intake given during established labour by all maternity units in England and Wales. A response rate of 91.6% (351 out of 383) was achieved; 79.5% of units had a written policy for oral intake, 96.4% of units allowed mothers some form of oral intake and 68.3% of these units selected mothers according to risk categories. Of the 268 units allowing oral intake, 67.2% gave drink only and 32.8% drink and food. Of those allowing food, all but 13.6% had a selection policy. Of the 85 units not selecting mothers, 78.8% gave water only; the remaining 21.2% gave water and other drink or food. This survey demonstrates a wide variation in policies for oral intake during labour.