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.