I recently had a very interesting conversation with a friend who breastfed in America. Her initial observations of breastfeeding in the UK is that it is a lot more open and society a lot more accepting of mothers doing it. It’s interesting because, despite our generous maternity leave in comparison to The States and the legal status that a mum can breastfeed everywhere (not in place in every state in the U.S.A!), our rates remain some of the lowest in the world. So what is it? There are many articles and books discussing the matter. But more often than not, the “blame” lies with society. Society’s perception that bottle feeding is the normal. Why does every baby doll kit come with a bottle?! Why are we instilling in our children from a young age what is not biologically normal? Not that we should be looking for who or what to blame. We should be looking for solutions to ensure that the parents of our children of the future world are able to make informed decisions about how to feed their child. There are several places where we should be focussing. For example with our government, ensuring that we follow the World Health Assembly International Code (WHO 1981) and subsequent resolutions.

An area of great interest to me is ensuring that the children of our current generation are fully informed and educated on the matter. Incorporating this into the national curriculum would be amazing. But until that time, I can take heart by teaching it in the year 7 reproduction topic that I teach. I can teach the whole school by doing an assembly on it. Which in fact was what I did with two of my esteemed colleagues, who are equally passionate about breastfeeding and supporting mothers. When I tell friends and family I did an assembly on breastfeeding, they were amazed and in awe of the “brave” activity I did. Brave because I teach in an all boys’ school. But why brave? Breastfeeding isn’t just a female topic. It isn’t just a mother topic. It is a whole society topic. The whole of society should be educated and care about it. Interestingly, the management at the school supported the idea that this was indeed a “very brave” things to do. In actual fact, the boys received the information very maturely and it led to some great conversations and learning around the topic.

If we could improve society’s perceptions of breastfeeding and improve our breastfeeding rates, what impact would this have on society? As we’ve seen in these WBW blogs, one of the key benefits of breastfeeding is a reduction in illness in both mother and baby. Also of importance is the economics of breastfeeding based on these improved health outcomes. They are quite eye-opening. A 2012 report commissioned by Unicef UK showed that investment to increase and sustain breastfeeding rates will provide a rapid financial return on investment (Unicef 2012).

Kate Butler is a Secondary School Biology teacher by day and mother to two boys (aged 2 and 4) day and night. She trained as a Kate Butlerbreastfeeding peer supporter in 2013 and since then has set up local peer support meetings in her local area and joined the committee of West Herts Breastfeeders to support with fundraising and event management. West Herts Breastfeeders is a community based mum to mum peer support group that supports breastfeeding families with their breastfeeding journeys in the community and within West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

References

UNICEF 2012 [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.unicef.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2012/11/Preventing_disease_saving_resources.pdf [Accessed 26/07/2018]

WHO 1981 [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/code_english.pdf [Accessed 26/07/18]

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