Call to teach kids about breastfeeding at school

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A UK health organisation is calling for breastfeeding to be taught to children at school to help increase breastfeeding rates and reduce stigma in the community.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published new guidelines on breastfeeding after a recent study showed the UK had the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the world.

One of the key recommendations from RCPCH doctors was the introduction of a public health education program in schools.

It's hoped that by teaching children about breastfeeding it might encourage more women as they grow older to breastfeed and also help change negative attitudes towards breastfeeding.

President of the RCPCH Professor Neena Modi said there needed to be a shift in attitude.

"Regrettable the attitudes of a large part of society mean breastfeeding is not always encouraged; local support in the workplace is not always conducive to continued breastfeeding and perhaps most worryingly breastfeeding in public is still often stigmatised," Prof Modi said.

"It is no wonder that for many mothers, there are too many barriers."

The RCPCH also recommended the UK government make employers support breastfeeding through paid parental leave, feeding breaks and ensuring there were facilities for breastfeeding and expressing breast milk.

She said the UK's poor breastfeeding record was not something to be celebrated.

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"Women, their families, no less children and society at large need information that is sensible and not overly dogmatic," Prof Modi said.

"Mums need support at the right time and place, including in the workplace from their employers, and a culture that promotes and encourages breastfeeding as a natural and positive thing to do.

"There must be a coordinated and determined approach across all the society if the situation it to be improved."

And they have cause for concern, with the latest RCPCH figures showing that only 40 per cent of babies are breastfed between the ages of six to eight weeks old, while in Norway, for example, over 70 per cent of babies are breastfed at six months old.

The NCPCH is determined to improve the country's breastfeeding rates to help boost health outcomes for babies.

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