Hong Kong must better publicise breastfeeding benefits for the sake of working mothers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 11:05pm

As was mentioned in your report, “Hong Kong lacks adequate facilities and support for breastfeeding, poll finds” (April 28), many Hongkongers believe there is a lack of public empathy for breastfeeding mothers.

Because of this, many young mothers, especially those who are working, choose not to breastfeed their babies.

Wherever possible, babies should receive breast milk at least until they reach six months of age.

There is no doubt that if the government introduced breastfeeding-friendly policies, this would reduce the pressure on working parents, especially if maternity leave was extended from 10 to 14 weeks.

It is believed that many working mothers stop breastfeeding after their maternity leave ends, because some offices make breastfeeding or storage of breast milk very difficult.

Also, some young mothers are influenced by the many adverts for instant milk formula. These ads make claims, for example, that their product produces smart kids and this leads to these women developing the wrong concept that milk formula is more beneficial than breast milk.

The Department of Health should organise prenatal talks where experts explain to pregnant women the benefits of breast milk. It should also provide that information in adverts that would be posted on social media sites like Facebook.

Also, hospitals need to give the right kind of guidance on breastfeeding to new mothers. Hospitals have sometimes been criticised for practices that are not conducive to breastfeeding, such as separating babies from mothers after delivery and giving them formula milk for non-medical reasons.

The government and hospitals should also encourage the development of breastfeeding-friendly workplaces.

Attitudes in offices need to change, as young working mothers are sometimes deterred from breastfeeding as they fear discrimination from colleagues.

There must be designated places in offices where employees can pump breast milk and store it.

In public areas, people must be encouraged to be tolerant towards breastfeeding mothers. Why should mothers be made to feel it is wrong to feed their hungry babies in a public space, if they are suitably discreet and have something to cover themselves with?

I hope we will see the widespread promotion and greater acceptance of breastfeeding throughout the city.

Priscilla Ko Ka-Ying, Tseung Kwan O