Breastfeeding should be added to school curriculum to tackle UK's low rates

10 August 2017

Breastfeeding should be taught in schools as part of statutory personal, social and health education to address the UK’s low rates, said the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

The recommendation was part of new guidance on breastfeeding from the RCPCH, based on the latest research.
The RCPCH identified social stigma as a major barrier to breastfeeding and said that more needs to be done to support women to continue breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks.

It believes that educating girls and boys about breastfeeding from an early age will help ‘normalise’ the practice and remove any potential stigma.

Breastfeeding rates in the UK are among the lowest in world. Latest figures show that only 40% of babies are breastfeeding at six to eight weeks. At six months in Norway, this figure is over 70%. 

The RCPCH advised that mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed exclusively for up to six months and that solid food should not be introduced before four months.
And it said that mothers should be supported to continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish.

The RCPCH pointed to UNICEF research that found even moderate increases in breastfeeding could save the NHS up to £40m a year through fewer GP consultations and hospital admissions.

The RCPCH president, Professor Neena Modi, said: ‘Regrettably the attitudes of a large part of society mean breastfeeding is not always encouraged; local support is patchy, advice is not always consistent and often overly dogmatic, support in the workplace is not always conducive to continued breastfeeding and perhaps most worryingly, breastfeeding in public is still often stigmatised. It is no wonder that for many mothers, there are too many barriers.’

The royal college also called for ‘breastfeeding breaks’ at work, as well as designated rooms and fridges. Women should be allowed to leave to express milk or go to a nearby crèche and feed their baby directly.

And if women choose to take breastfeeding breaks, their salaries and career should be unaffected.