Nursing mothers on the rise

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am

Breastfeeding is becoming more popular in Hong Kong, but the training for nurses and doctors in hospitals is not keeping up with the trend.

That's according to a survey by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association of eight public and 10 private hospitals, which found 3,700 more nursing mothers than last year.

A total of 82,050 babies were born last year. Among mothers who stayed in hospital maternity units, 75.4 per cent indicated they would breastfeed their babies after they were discharged, a 1.5 per cent increase compared to a year ago.

The results coincide with an earlier government survey that showed the proportion of Hong Kong mothers breastfeeding their babies has doubled in the past decade.

Yet the increasing popularity of breastfeeding is not being matched by an increase in staff training.

Only 64 per cent of obstetric nurses surveyed this year were trained to support breastfeeding, as compared to 73 per cent last year and 82 per cent in 2008. The proportion of obstetric doctors trained was even smaller: 0.4 per cent had the skills, down from 4 per cent last year.

Hospital Authority chief manager of nursing Sylvia Fung Yuk-kuen attributed the phenomenon to high resignation rates among nurses, especially obstetric nurses. Many left or were transferred to other departments after they were trained.

But she stressed that there were 60 breastfeeding consultants at public hospitals who were ready to help parents.

From April, the authority stopped accepting free milk powder from manufacturers in order to keep commercial promotions out of public hospitals.

The Health Department is also developing a multimedia e-learning education kit to equip medical practitioners such as obstetricians and family physicians with skills to support breastfeeding mothers.

Meanwhile, dozens of mothers breastfed their babies in a community hall in Quarry Bay yesterday. They were among about 1,000 mothers who participated in the Hong Kong Breastfeeding Action Day.

Yeung Chui-ping, who brought her nine-month daughter along, said she had to feed her child every two hours. Drinking mother's milk did not make the babies as full as when they were fed infant formula, she said.

Nevertheless, she continued to breastfeed because it was healthier for her child. 'I feel great. I'm a real woman,' she said.

Chan Hoi-yan, with her 11-month-old son, said working did not stop her from breastfeeding. She used 15 minutes of her lunch hour to eat lunch and spent another 45 minutes expressing breast milk.