Fewer urban mothers breast-feed their infants than mothers in
the countryside, partially due to the shortage of baby-feeding
rooms at workplaces and mothers' worries relating to their
More than two-thirds, or 67 percent, of urban women in China
breast-feed. The figure is as high as 80 percent in rural areas,
said Zhang Deying, an official with the Ministry of Health
According to Ken Legins, HIV/AIDS Program officer of UN
Children's Fund (UNICEF) China, the global breast-feeding average
is only 37 percent.
"Once mothers go back to work after their delivery,
breast-feeding rates drop drastically for the lack of private
breast-feeding rooms," Legins said in relation to China.
Statistics from the Beijing Maternity Hospital show that four
months after urban mothers bring their babies home from hospitals,
breast-feeding rate is reduced to 50 or even 30 percent.
Cris Tunon, senior program manager of the World Health
Organization (WHO) China, acknowledged that mother's milk is an
ideal food for newborns as it provides both material and
psychological nutrition and helps infants improve their immune
system and their intelligence development.
Breast-feeding can reduce infant deaths caused by diarrhea and
pneumonia as well as mothers' chances of contracting cancers, Tunon
added. It also saves resources and causes no pollution.
Meanwhile, Legins said UNICEF will cooperate with the Chinese
government to promote breast-feeding in hospitals and workplaces
and encourage employers to allow mothers to either breast-feed or
express milk while at work.
Experts are appealing to employers to provide clean, private
spaces for breast-feeding women and refrigerators to store their
Many mothers, however, believe that breast-feeding might affect
their figures because they believe they have to eat more
to produce breast milk. But Ji Xiaocheng, president of
Beijing's Child Development Research Center, said there is no
direct link between breast-feeding and the body shape.
"The MOH will spot-check China's 7,000 maternity hospitals to
ensure that programs are in place to educate women on
breast-feeding and to promote the practice in the first six months
after delivery. Further, no sale or promotion of breast milk
substitutes are to be allowed in hospitals," Zhang Deying said.
The first week of August was World Breast-feeding Week.
(Xinhua News Agency August 8, 2005)