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Promoting Breast-feeding in Cities
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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 figures.

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 (MOH).

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 milk.

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)

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