Booby Traps Series: To normalize breastfeeding, start in the schools.

school busThe back to school season got me thinking:  Where where better to start with the project of normalizing breastfeeding than with kids, who hold the attitudes of the future?

Exposure to breastfeeding does change attitudes in kids.   Research has shown that high school age girls who were breastfed or had been exposed to breastfeeding were far more likely to know about its benefits to infants and mothers, and to be interested in breastfeeding education.  And one study of college students who had received instruction about breastfeeding found that students held positive attitudes toward breastfeeding and were supportive of the promotion of breastfeeding within a formal educational setting (though most found public breastfeeding to be unacceptable).

Unfortunately, most kids have little or no exposure to breastfeeding, and may get the little information they have through inaccurate or derogatory depictions on TV and in movies.

Attitudes toward the idea of teaching about breastfeeding in school vary quite a bit.  One study found that the vast majority (87%) of school nurses and high school teachers were supportive of the idea of teaching about breastfeeding in high school.   But only 33% of the public surveyed in 2001 agreed with the statement “breastfeeding education should be available as part of a high school health education curriculum.”

For people interested in teaching about breastfeeding, there are several curricula aimed at grades K-12.  Here are a few, offered free online:

But you don’t have to wait for your school to take on the topic.  You can be a special guest in your child’s classroom and teach a simple lesson about breastfeeding.  Kimberly Seals Allers taught her son’s second grade class about how mammals (including humans) feed their young, using a few simple props.  I’m planning to pay a visit to my daughter’s preschool this year with the book Mama’s Milk and talk about the same thing.  There are some great kids books (mostly for younger kids) which can make it easy.

Have you taught about breastfeeding in your kids’ school?  Does your child’s school cover it as part of health education or biology?  Did you learn anything about breastfeeding when you were a student?


6 thoughts on “Booby Traps Series: To normalize breastfeeding, start in the schools.

  1. When I was in 5th grade, my parents moved me to a Montessori school, where the Spanish teacher breastfed her 2 year old during class, while she taught us our lessons. It was normal there. That experience was only one year of my life, but 26 years later, it influenced me to choose to breastfeed my children for 3.5 years each. Funny story: One day last year, I go to a restaurant for lunch, and I can’t shake the feeling that I know the waitress taking our order. Finally it dawns on me. She looks exactly like my old Spanish teacher! I ask if her name is Paloma. She says yes! That was the little girl and her Mom was my Spanish teacher!


  2. Just be responsible and understand that children (maybe even more so than some unconscious adult men and women) will have reactions to the experience. Especially the ones that weren’t breastfeed could have grief or anger or isolation triggered.


  3. Indeed, breastfeeding knowledge should be given to every child in his early school days. If he knows about breastfeeding through television then there is always a threat that he interpret it in wrong way so its better to clear them about this thing is school time for letting them know the advantages of breastfeeding.


  4. Personally, I think we’ve reached the point where the value of breast milk is pretty well established in the mind of the public and further repetition of the “breast is best” message is unlikely to further raise breast-feeding rates. Almost all new mothers have gotten the word and want to breast-feed, and the two main obstacles are 1) Medical/technical difficulties with breastfeeding and 2) Need to return to work.

    For #1, some of those difficulties may not be fixable, for example, when the mother becomes seriously ill after birth and absolutely requires medication that’s incompatible with breastfeeding. Other difficulties are treatable, and helping more women access well-trained and compassionate breastfeeding help may be beneficial.

    For #2, that’s going to require difficult political and economic solutions. Longer paid maternity leave, or for that matter, ANY paid maternity leave.

    We all know breast is best. Want more women to breast-feed? Give us all, including mothers who work crappy minimum-wage jobs, 12 weeks of fully-paid leave. I guarantee, this’ll do more to raise the breastfeeding rate than all the awareness campaigns in the world.


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