Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2020 May 20;15(1):46.
doi: 10.1186/s13006-020-00290-z.

Are the Doctors of the Future Ready to Support Breastfeeding? A Cross-Sectional Study in the UK

Free PMC article

Are the Doctors of the Future Ready to Support Breastfeeding? A Cross-Sectional Study in the UK

Kirsty V Biggs et al. Int Breastfeed J. .
Free PMC article


Background: Currently there is no published data on the inclusion of breastfeeding education within the UK medical school curriculum. This study aims to address this knowledge gap and explore students' perceptions of their readiness to support breastfeeding.

Methods: An online survey was used to collect data from 32 UK undergraduate medical schools and their students. All students in their final two years of study at the 30 universities offering a 5- or 6-year medicine course, were eligible.

Results: Curriculum data was obtained from 26 (81%) institutions. Compulsory breastfeeding education was provided by 85% (N = 22) institutions with 81% (n = 21) providing lecture-based teaching and 19% (n = 5) offering formal clinical education. Overall, 411 students from 22 institutions participated. A moderate ability to identify the benefits of breastfeeding was observed; however, self-rated confidence in practical skills was poor. Assisting with latching was the least confident skill, with confidence in only 3% (14/411) students. Most students (93%) viewed doctors as playing an important role in breastfeeding, with those interested in either women's health, paediatrics or general practice perceiving the role of doctors as more important. Overall, 93% (381/411) students requested further breastfeeding education.

Conclusions: This study suggests UK medical schools are not adequately preparing students to support breastfeeding patients. Further studies should explore the competency of doctors to meet the needs of lactating women, and design optimal training for UK medical students.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Clinical skills; Medical education; Medical training.

Conflict of interest statement

NS is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship at Imperial College London and is a non-remunerated Trustee of the Human Milk Foundation.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Medical student clinical confidence in performing breastfeeding related skills. Latching; confidence in helping a mother with latching problems; Nipple Rx: confidence in recognising and managing mastitis and nipple thrush; Infant formula use: confidence on advising on medical reasons for supplementing breastfed infants with formula

Similar articles

See all similar articles


    1. Rollins NC, Bhandari N, Hajeebhoy N, Horton S, Lutter CK, Martines JC, et al. Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? Lancet. 2016;387(10017):491–504. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01044-2. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Victora CG, Bahl R, Barros AJ, França GV, Horton S, Krasevec J, et al. Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. Lancet. 2016;387(10017):475–490. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01024-7. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Andreas NJ, Kampmann B, Mehring L-DK. Human breast milk: a review on its composition and bioactivity. Early Hum Dev. 2015;91(11):629–635. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2015.08.013. - DOI - PubMed
    1. Health and Social Care Information Centre. Infant Feeding Survey 2010 [Available from:] Accessed 04/03/2020.
    1. WHO. Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative 2009 [Available from:] Accessed 04/03/2020.

LinkOut - more resources