Girls should be taught how to breastfeed at school, experts have urged after a new analysis revealed the UK still has one of the lowest rates in the world.
Just 81 per cent of babies in the UK are fed ‘the natural way’ – meaning 150,000 are missing out on breast milk each year, according to data from Unicef.
This is despite repeated Government campaigns to boost rates and NHS guidance that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has now called for breastfeeding to be added to the curriculum so children can learn it is natural and the best source of nutrition for a baby.
Unicef, which assessed breastfeeding rates from 123 countries, claim nearly eight million babies across the world are missing out on being breastfed each year.
The charity discovered Ireland has the lowest rates, at just 55 per cent. In contrast, Sri Lanka tops the charts, with 99.4 per cent of mothers breastfeeding.
Spain (77 per cent), the US (74.4 per cent) and France (63 per cent) are also placed in the bottom five for breastfeeding rates, according to the data.
MailOnline has today sifted through the 13-page report to reveal the 10 countries with the highest and lowest rates of breastfeeding.
Breast milk contains antibodies passed on from the mother, which boost a baby’s immune system and help it fight infections and viruses.
There is also evidence that breastfed babies have higher IQs and are less at risk of obesity – because formula milk is higher in fat.
Breastfeeding is also deemed beneficial for the mother because it enables her to bond with the newborn.
It also enables her to lose weight, as nursing mothers burn up to 500 calories a day extra.
Yet despite numerous ‘breast is best’ campaigns by the Government and the NHS, rates have barely improved in recent years.
The NHS recommends babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months and after that given a combination of breast milk and food for about a year.
Sue Ashmore, of Unicef UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative, said: ‘The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world and it is a highly emotive subject.
‘Many women have not breastfed, or have experienced the trauma of trying very hard to breastfeed and not succeeding.
‘It is time to stop laying the blame for the UK’s low breastfeeding rates in the laps of individual women.’
She added that it is a public health imperative, for which the ‘Government, policy makers, communities and families all share responsibility’.