Schoolchildren could be taught the “breast is best” mantra in class, under recommendations aimed at driving up breastfeeding rates in the UK.
The country has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, with 40 per cent of babies breastfeeding at six to eight weeks. The numbers drop rapidly from there.
In a series of proposals to encourage more women to continue with breastfeeding, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said secondary schools should include the subject in PSHE lessons from age 11.
They also want laws brought in that force employers to help mums to breastfeed after returning to work, with supports such as facilities for expressing milk.
I am absolutely fascinated by breastfeeding statistics. When I was struggling to feed my first baby I spent hours of on Google looking at the breakdown of statistics showing how many women were still exclusively feeding by X weeks. It was like I was trying to eradicate my guilt by proving to myself I’m not the only one who couldn’t exclusively breastfeed.
Neither of my kids were exclusively breastfed. But I am still breastfeeding my seven-month-old most of her milk feeds. I pumped all of my first daughter’s feeds for 20 weeks.
I truly believe no amount of support would have changed the outcome of my breastfeeding journeys with my two children. With my second I was too exhausted to keep cluster feeding, I had to throw in the towel and pass my baby over to a bottle-wielding hubby so I could sleep. With my first, she just wouldn’t latch and feed.
I think education is a wonderful thing and I’m sure support has and will help a lot of women to keep going with breastfeeding.
So adding this information to kids at school is a good thing. If nothing else, it will normalise breastfeeding. Too many women still feel self-conscious when feeding in public. I don’t think you can ever have too much education.
With that in mind, here are some World Health Organisation facts about breastfeeding:
- About 40% of infants 0–5 months old are exclusively breastfed worldwide.
- Few children receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods; in many countries less than a fourth of infants 6–23 months of age meet the criteria of dietary diversity and feeding frequency that are appropriate for their age.
- Over 820 000 children’s lives could be saved every year among children under 5 years, if all children 0–23 months were optimally breastfed.
- Breastfeeding improves IQ, school attendance, and is associated with higher income in adult life.
- Improving child development and reducing health costs through breastfeeding results in economic gains for individual families as well as at the national level.
I do see that the statistics support the “breast is best” message and if you can do it, then great.
However I hope if the message does get spread in the classroom, it won’t be delivered in a “be all and end all”-style. Some women just can’t get on with breastfeeding and they use formula. And you know what? Their babies are just as cute, annoying, happy, whiny, anti-sleep and troublesome as the exclusively breastfed ones.