Breast is best for mums at trailblazing school

Photo Neil Cross'Rachel Grime with Antony and Dawson, Alison Shields with Madison, Alfie and Molly, and Beth Williamson with Martha, Rose and Lucy, with Asst Head Michelle Martin at Leyland St Andrew's, the first school in South Ribble to sign up as a breastfeeding friendly school.
Photo Neil Cross'Rachel Grime with Antony and Dawson, Alison Shields with Madison, Alfie and Molly, and Beth Williamson with Martha, Rose and Lucy, with Asst Head Michelle Martin at Leyland St Andrew's, the first school in South Ribble to sign up as a breastfeeding friendly school.
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A Leyland school has become the first in the borough to be ‘breastfeeding friendly’ under a scheme to boost breastfeeding rates.

St Andrew’s CE Primary School in Woodlea Road has signed up to the county council-run scheme to try and become more welcoming to breastfeeding mothers.

Measures taken include declaring all school assemblies, meetings and plays attended by parents as breastfeeding friendly, so mums can feed a younger sibling while watching their child’s school play.

The school will also be providing a special breastfeeding room for mums who are not comfortable feeding in public.

And the initiative has moved into the classrooms too, as baby bottles have been removed from the children’s play area.

Any books used in school will also feature pictures of breastfeeding, not bottle feeding.

Assistant headteacher Michelle Martin said: “I knew that Lancashire’s breast feeding rates were below the national average and that young mums can stay away from breast feeding because they don’t feel comfortable doing it in a public place.

“I was a breastfeeding mum and a few of the other teachers here were, so we know the importance of it and felt it was important to sign up.”

The school is now displaying posters welcoming parents with nursing babies to breastfeed on school premises, and teachers are trying to incorporate knowledge of it into everyday school activities.

Mrs Martin added: “We want people who come onto school premises for things like assemblies or parents evenings to feel welcome to breastfeed if their babies get hungry.

“We’ll also provide private rooms for them if they don’t want to be in public.

“It’s about normalising it and educating children that it’s natural from an early age.

“To help with this we also incorporate it into the play areas where we don’t just put bottles into home areas but also cups, and in stories, we use books that have pictures of breastfeeding.”

Rachel Grime, 28, from Leyland, has two children already at St Andrew’s and a five-month-old baby who she breastfeeds.

She said: “I think it’s a brilliant thing the school’s got on board with.

“I’m not a confident breastfeeder, but to know I’m welcome to do it in school assemblies or at sports day when my baby is hungry, makes it much more comfortable.

“It means I don’t feel like I have to go to the back of the hall and then miss out on what my son might be doing in the school play.

“So many women may want to do it, but they feel embarrassed because of what other people think.

“Women’s breasts are so sexualised, and that needs to stop.

“This initiative will hopefully help normalise breastfeeding.”

Helen Beard, 33, from Clayton-le-Woods, has two children at the school and a seven month old who is breastfeeding.

She said: “It can be stressful to find somewhere to breastfeed when you’re out, so if you know somewhere is part of this scheme, you feel more comfortable. You don’t think people are judging you.

“Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, so it’s important mums know it’s alright to feed and there’s no stigma.

“Having this status helps to normalise breastfeeding and the more places that get on board, the better.”

Katie Wharton, infant feeding co-ordinator for Lancashire Care said: “The value of breastfeeding for emotional and physical health is well evidenced. Breastfeeding rates in Lancashire are below the national average.

“If we are to increase the amount of babies who receive lifelong benefits from being breastfed, we need to normalise breastfeeding, and schools play an essential role in this.

“One of the reasons women state that they stop breastfeeding their baby before they had planned to is the worry of breastfeeding in public places.

“Signing up to the Breastfeeding Friendly Schools and Colleges Scheme can support women to realise that they are welcome to feed their baby wherever the baby becomes hungry.”

Katie McWalters, 30, of Leyland, has a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter.

She hopes more schools throughout the county sign up to the scheme.

She said: “I have two children and with my first child I found it absolutely terrifying to do in public.

“I didn’t know whether I was doing it right and the stress and anxiety of thinking people are judging you made it worse.

“For me, knowing somewhere is breastfeeding friendly, that their staff are reassuring and have some knowledge, makes things a lot more comfortable.

“Knowing people are on your side and it’s a safe environment is wonderful, and hopefully this scheme will help make the whole experience more positive for many more mothers.”

Lancashire County Council is now hoping that more schools will sign up to the breastfeeding friendly initiative.

Schools can sign up by emailing HIS@lancashirecare.nhs.u