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Do We Dare Teach Our Daughters the Truth About Their Bodies?

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What did you learn about breastfeeding in school? Chances are - not much. Whether you were a pupil in the 1950s or the 1990s, it's unlikely you were told anything at all about nursing a baby, because breastfeeding has never ever been a statutory requirement on the National Curriculum, and it still isn't, even today.

Teenagers are taught about alcohol, emotions, contraception, cultural diversity and more as part of their PSHE lessons. But breastfeeding? Telling girls how to do that is dangerous and downright disgusting, according to many commenters in this recent article in the Daily Mail about a pilot scheme in Merseyside teaching the benefits of nursing to 14-year-olds.

Revolting!! Don't teach them how to read and write but teach them how to breastfeed...ye Gods.

Teach them how to respect themselves, how to say NO and how to keep their legs closed, along with teaching them to read and write!!

These idiots should be locked up so they cannot do our children any more harm. It's idiots like these that only make underage pregnancy worse.

Even an 'expert' was quoted, Norman Wells, from the (somewhat conservative) Family Education Trust:

With the age of consent remaining at 16 and the average age at which women have their first child in the UK being almost 28, there is no pressing need to teach girls of 14 about breastfeeding.

Of course, this IS the Daily Mail, a paper best read with your head strapped to the back of your chair to prevent you from planting your face intermittently into your keyboard. But still - it can't be denied, there does exist an underlying cultural distaste of breastfeeding, an activity that many grown women are still reluctant to attempt 'in public'.

There's a squeamishness, not just about milky mammaries, but about women's bodily functions in general, that makes it unsurprising that folk feel uncomfortable when we talk about them to school children. And there still persists the mythology that by giving our children accurate information about the sexual functions of their bodies, we are somehow inadvertently 'marketing' the idea of dropping out and becoming that most feared of stereotypes: a teenage mother.

Better, then, to talk down the whole motherhood thing, and paint it in a negative light wherever possible. They certainly did this at my school in the 80s, where we were shown a film of a woman giving birth that caused one girl to actually faint and put the rest of us off procreating for at least another 20 years. The image of a woman in Deidre Barlow glasses, flat on her back on a bed and having some sort of horror movie version of dentistry done to her nether regions stays with me still, and certainly accounts in part for the terrible fear of childbirth I had when pregnant for the first time at 32.

According to new research, as many as one in three post partum women are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to which fear can be a major contributing factor.

The research, from Tel Aviv University, was pretty narrow - it only looked at 89 women in Israel - but I still think it's worth our consideration. Whether or not it's true that one in three of us get PTSD, it is the case that most women begin labour filled with scaremonging misinformation. The fact that women's bodies are designed to give birth brilliantly and that birth can be enjoyable is rapidly becoming one of the best kept secrets of the modern age.

Even the researcher, Professor Strous, appears to have missed the point, suggesting the solution might lie in "better counselling about pain relief and making sure that patient's bodies are properly covered during labour and delivery." This, "take-more-drugs-and-keep-your-shirt-on-luv" attitude ignores the grass roots of the problem - women are only fearful because they are completely misinformed and are anticipating a Deidre Barlow dentistry moment when they could be preparing for the most life-enhancing and empowering day of their life.

Do we dare teach our daughters how incredible their bodies can be? Can we tell them the real truth of how beautifully they can birth and feed their babies? Or should we continue to "start them young" on the myth that it's all a bit yucky and horrific, in the hopes that they "keep their legs closed."

Maybe, just maybe, if we risked telling them the facts, they would learn the lesson that their bodies are incredible, functional, powerful, capable and worthy of deep respect. But could they find any women to teach that? Since the opposite has been taught in schools for as long as we can remember, that might be tricky.