Girls Should Be Taught How To Breastfeed At School, Say Experts

Photo: Getty Images.
The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, according to new data from Unicef, and children's health experts are now calling for schoolgirls to be taught how to breastfeed.
The UK is among the 10 countries with the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with 150,000 babies never being breastfed, the charity's breastfeeding report shows. Eighty one percent of mothers breastfeed, making it the country with the fifth lowest rate in the world, while just 55% of babies in Ireland are breastfed – the lowest percentage anywhere.
The data of 123 countries showed a divide between high-income and low-income countries when it comes to breastfeeding. Around a fifth (21%) of babies in high-income countries are never breastfed, while the figure is just 4% in low-income countries. The countries with the highest rates include Sri Lanka (99.4%), Bhutan (99.3%) and Nepal (99.1%).
Advertisement
Guidance from the NHS recommends babies be fed exclusively with breastmilk for the first six months (26 weeks) of their lives, owing to its health benefits for both the baby and the mother. It protects the baby from infections and diseases, cuts the risk of diarrhoea and vomiting, and reduces the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood leukaemia, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in adulthood, the NHS says.
The benefits for the woman include a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis (weak bones), cardiovascular disease and obesity. However not every mother is able to breastfeed and it can be a painful, frustrating experience.
That being said, children's health professionals are calling for greater education in the UK of its benefits. Professor Russell Viner, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told Refinery29 UK: "Children need to learn from a young age that breastfeeding is natural and the best source of nutrition for a baby – delivering personal social health education (PSHE) in all schools is an effective way to do this and PHSE therefore must be made statutory and compulsory for all schools."
Currently, many mothers report feeling embarrassed or stigmatised while breastfeeding in public. A survey of breastfeeding women in 2015 found that six in 10 made an effort to hide it in public, while a third felt embarrassed or uncomfortable doing it in public.
Professor Viner believes this stigma could be eliminated through proper education, and the lessons must be given by staff trained specifically in the area. "By embedding these positive messages early in life, we have the power to change societal attitudes of a generation. Then many more women can breastfeed in public without fear or anxiety, and provide the best source of nutrition for their baby in the process."
Advertisement

The countries with the lowest breastfeeding rates

1. Ireland (55%)
2. France (63%)
3. US (74.4%)
4. Spain (77%)
5. UK (81%)
6. Germany (82%)
7. Italy (86%)
8. Republic of Korea (88%)
9. Montenegro (88.3%)
10. Guyana (89%)

The countries with the highest breastfeeding rates

1. Sri Lanka (99.4%)
2. Bhutan (99.3%)
3. Nepal (99.1%)
4. Madagascar (99%)
5. Niger (98.8%)
6. Rwanda (98.8%)
7. Kenya (98.7%)
8. Gambia (98.7%)
9. Burundi (98.7%)
10. Uruguay (98.7%)
11. Peru (98.7%)
Read These Next:

More from Global News

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Fashion
A look at the subcultures around the world that color what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
Travel
Explore the world's most most vibrant cultural and culinary centers—in 60 seconds, of course.
Watch Now
Beauty
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Millennial survivor-woman Lucie Fink dives headfirst into social experiments, 5 days at a time.