Breastfeeding on the rise but still below international norms
The proportion of Hong Kong mothers breastfeeding their babies has doubled in the past decade, but the level is still lower than the international average, a government survey shows.
Of 2,500 mothers surveyed in 2008 by the Department of Health, 12.7 per cent said they fed their babies only breast milk continuously for six months, compared to only 5.8 per cent in 1998.
However, the department said this was still well below the average in most European and Asian countries of 36-43 per cent.
The survey, reported in the latest issue of the department's Non-Communicable Diseases Watch, also found that 30.8 per cent of babies were fed breast milk for more than four months in 2008, double the 1998 figure of 15 per cent.
Nearly 74 per cent of babies were breastfed in 2008, compared to more than 90 per cent in other European and Asian countries.
Hong Kong Breastfeeding Mothers' Association vice-chairwoman Tang Miu-chi said there was still not a culture of breastfeeding among Hong Kong mothers.
'Most mothers think breastfeeding for one to two months is already good enough. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends mothers feed their babies on just breast milk for the first six months,' she said.
Tang added that some mothers thought breast milk could be replaced with milk powder, some even believed that milk powder provided more nutrients.
Some mothers were unwilling to breastfeed their babies because they were busy at work, she said.
The department said breastfeeding could improve the health of both mothers and babies.
Babies breastfed for more than three months were 27 per cent less likely to develop asthma, and because of the lower incidence of respiratory conditions, 72 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital. They were also less likely to become obese.
The department also said mothers were 4.3 per cent less likely to suffer from breast cancer for each year they breastfeed.
More mothers are breastfeeding their babies in Hong Kong
The proportion of mothers in 2008 who breastfed their babies for six months: 12.7%