Lunch and a message under the covers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 July, 2013, 4:05am

About 40 mothers and their tots provided a colourful scene on the steps of the Cultural Centre yesterday in a "smart mob" aimed at changing attitudes towards breastfeeding in public.

They gathered at lunchtime and in unison whipped out their cover-ups - fabrics in polka-dot, floral and geometric prints - before breastfeeding their babies in the busy Tsim Sha Tsui area.

A smart mob is a public gathering arranged via social media or phones to make a point to make, unlike a flash mob, which is not organised to send any particular message.

"It's ridiculous to be at a restaurant and be asked to go to the toilet to breastfeed," said Ceres Kam Yeung-tse, 29, who was one of the organisers. "You never ask people to go to the toilet to have their meal - why should a baby?"

The women are some of the 3,000 members of Facebook group MamamilkBB, a forum where breastfeeding mothers share their experiences and talk about the challenges.

In July last year, the government endorsed World Health Organisation recommendations encouraging breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life. The Health Department's senior medical officer, Dr Barbara Fung, said then that breast milk was best for babies. It offered many immediate and long-term health benefits for babies and their mothers and promoted bonding, she said.

Hong Kong mothers had for years been told to use infant milk formula as it was thought that breast milk did not provide enough nutrition.

"My friends' mothers-in-law are all misinformed and think breast milk is not enough. So they might secretly feed their [daughters'] babies formula milk at night," said 33-year-old Carol Chiu Wing-sze, who took part in the event. "I think it's a Chinese tradition to make babies fatter."

Chiu said more support was needed for breastfeeding mothers in the form of more rooms in public areas and malls that don't double as nappy-changing stations.

One mother in her early 40s who waiting for a ferry nearby said she breastfed her daughter seven years ago. She did it in private because "it's just not comfortable to do it in public".