#37 Stakeholder Engagement to Inform Strategies for Improving Breastfeeding Education in Manitoba Schools
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of life, but <20% of Canadian infants achieve this milestone. Social stigma and lack of public support contribute significantly to early breastfeeding cessation. Educating school children could help normalize breastfeeding by fostering a positive perception that breastfeeding is a normal way for mothers to feed their children. This ongoing project aims to engage with education stakeholders and explore ways to integrate breastfeeding education in the Manitoba school curriculum.
A scan of existing school curricula in Manitoba was conducted to determine if and how breastfeeding is currently discussed. Developers of existing breastfeeding education resources used outside of Manitoba are being contacted to gather input about the development and uptake of these resources. Interviews and focus groups with Manitoba education stakeholders (teachers, school administrators, curriculum consultants, and education policymakers) will be conducted to explore needs, perceptions and anticipated barriers related to school-based breastfeeding education.
Breastfeeding is not specifically addressed in the current Manitoba school curriculum, although ‘mammalian biology’ is addressed in grade two and ‘infant feeding’ is addressed in grade ten Human Ecology. Two breastfeeding education resource kits for school teachers were identified, developed by the Ontario Public Health Association and the Marion County Public Health Department. Developers of these resource kits report a lack of uptake due to insufficient engagement with educators during the development process. Local school teacher organizations, the Manitoba Department of Education and Training, and Physical Health and Education Canada have been contacted to identify participants for stakeholder Focus Groups in Fall 2017.
Engaging with education stakeholders will provide critical information on how to integrate breastfeeding education in the Manitoba school curriculum. Ultimately, this initiative will help encourage societal support for breastfeeding, improve breastfeeding rates, and enhance maternal-child health in Manitoba.