The 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).
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:
- New York State’s “Breastfeeding: First Step to Good Health” curriculum for grades K-12
- Marion County, Indiana’s “Life’s Best Beginnings” curriculum for high school students
- Ontario Public Health Association’s “Breastfeeding Information and Activity Kit for Secondary School Teachers” (also available in French)
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?