Pupils as young as 14 have breastfeeding lessons using puppets and knitted breasts
Scheme to teach teenagers the benefits of breastfeedingFamily campaigners say students are “too young” to receive such lessons
Pupils as young as 14 are being given breastfeeding lessons as part of a GCSE
Pupils as young as 14 are being given breastfeeding lessons as part of a GCSE.
The teenage students in Merseyside have been taught how to express milk in a bizarre lesson involving puppets and knitted breasts.
Now health bosses want to roll the scheme out further.
But the lessons risk incurring the wrath of those whobelieve the children are too young to be taught about motherhood.
The UK has the highest teenage birth and abortion rates in Western Europe. In 2008 Liverpool’s rate stood at 52.8 pregnancies per 1,000 girls, compared with a national average of 40.6.
NormanWells, from the Family Education Trust, said: “With the age of consent remaining at 16 and the average age at which women have their first child in the UK being almost 28, there is no pressing need to teach girls of 14 about breastfeeding.
“Thebenefits of breastfeeding can be far more appropriately and effectivelycommunicated to expectant mothers by GPs and midwives at antenatal appointments in the weeks and months immediately prior to the birth of ababy.”
The controversial pilot involved 40 pupils aged 14 to 15 years old at Litherland High School and was intended to teach the benefits of breastfeeding. The class are all taking a GCSE in child development.
Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust, which backed the project, said the lessons were designed to encourage teenagers to consider the benefits of breastfeeding.
Alison Welch from the Trust said: “With a bottle feeding culture being the norm in this area very few of the students had witnessed breastfeeding amongst family and friends and we wanted to get across how breastfeedingis incredibly convenient and offers a huge range of health benefits both to baby and mum.”
Encouraging future mothers: Health officials said breast feeding classes for teenagers could change attitudes towards the practice (model pic)
School nurse Kim Thornton added: “Research has shown that often young people form their opinions about how they would feed their baby before they leave school and we want to ensure that our students receive all of the information and advice they need to help them make a fully informed choice about whether to breastfeed or not.”
At present 35 per cent of babies are exclusively breast fed at one-week-old in the UK. This drops to three per cent by the time the babies are five-months old.
The workshops, created in collaboration with Netherton Feelgoodfactory”s BreastStart were hailed a success by the organisers, who said it had shifted opinion among the schoolgirls.
Sheila Bradshaw, head of child development atLitherland High School said: “Beforehand only a minority of students said they would consider breastfeeding in the future but by the end of the presentation a significant majority said they would.”
The workshops also include other props such as a pair of glasses to highlight how fatty acids in breast milk support good vision to a glass cola bottle emphasising how breastfeeding can help mothers regain shape.
The LCH Trust is now hoping other Merseyside schools will adopt a similar approach.