news

Doctors call for pupils to be taught about breastfeeding in schools

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health called for a "familiarity with breastfeeding" within education

Leading children's doctors are calling for pupils to be taught about the importance of breastfeeding in schools.

At the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1), a new position paper on breastfeeding was released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath (RCPCH), highlighting the health benefits and importance of tackling the UK's low breastfeeding rates.

According to the RCPCH, "familiarity with breastfeeding" should be part of personal, health and social education in schools.

The paper says Britain has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The paper also calls on ministers to provide legislation for breastfeeding breaks and suitable facilities in the workplace to allow for breastfeeding and called on the government to reinstate the UK-wide Infant Feeding Survey, which was cancelled in 2015.

The paper said Britain has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe and criticised data collection surrounding breastfeeding.

Data from 2010 claims 34% of babies are receiving some breast milk at six months of age compared with 49% in the US and 71% in Norway.

At a year this figure fell to 0.5%.

Figures for England in 2015/16 show that while almost three-quarters of mothers started breastfeeding, this fell to 43.2% when babies were between six and eight weeks old.

The paper was released at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week(Image: PA)

The document suggests that social stigma is at heart of UK's low breastfeeding rate.

Societal attitudes may lead to women feeling uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public or in the presence of peers and family members.

Meanwhile, maternal concern about whether an infant is receiving sufficient milk may result in reinforcement from friends, family and health professionals, to "supplement" with formula which undermines maternal milk production, the RCPCH said.

New RCPCH guidance also highlights the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child, as well as the cost savings to families and health services.

The college advises that mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed exclusively for up to six months and solid food should be introduced from six months, ideally alongside breastfeeding, to ensure the infant has adequate nutrition.

Meanwhile, mothers may experience practical problems in establishing breastfeeding, and fail to access or receive adequate practical support.

RCPCH president, Professor Neena Modi, said: "World Breastfeeding Week is 25 years old today, but the UK has little to celebrate in terms of its record.

"The health benefits of breastfeeding are beyond question, from reduced likelihood of intestinal, respiratory and ear infections to hospitalisation."

Keep up to date with the latest news in west London via the free getwestlondon app.

You can even set it to receive push notifications for all the breaking news in your area.

Available to download from the App Store or Google Play for Android now!

View full mobile page