Breastfeeding back despite obstacles A lack of nursing skills, breastfeeding rooms, and public awareness are among the scores of reasons mainland mothers have abandoned breastfeeding over the years, but the melamine milk scandal is one factor forcing many to reconsider. Hospitals have been packed this week with scared mothers asking about breastfeeding, while the topic has become the most popular source of discussion on maternity and childcare websites. Although many mothers know breast milk is the best natural food, many complain that a lack of nursing facilities at work and in public places mean it is hard to follow World Health Organisation suggestions that children be fed only mother's milk for the first six months. Mainland media have reported a continuous decline in the breastfeeding rate since the 1990s, even in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin , where mothers are generally more aware of the issue. In major urban centres, the rate is about 60 per cent, while in rural areas, where migrant working mothers are swayed by milk-powder promotions in the cities, the rate is even lower. Advertisements have bombarded the market over the years with glossy promotions of formula as more nutritious and more convenient, but there have been almost no efforts to encourage breastfeeding or discuss the disadvantages of bottle feeding. People's Daily reported that a survey by the Tianjin Women's and Child Health Centre found that fewer than 70 per cent of the 2,000 new mothers polled breastfed, and nearly 40 per cent of them said they could not breastfeed their babies for the first six months because of short maternity-leave provisions, busy working schedules and personal health. For many working mothers returning to work four months after giving birth, the anxiety of limited nursing time and facilities in the workplace is a major issue. A 33-year-old mother of a four-month-old boy said she had tried to draw out enough milk during work to meet her son's next-day needs, but she could not find a private place to do it. This is despite a national recommendation that employers provide a nursing room and one hour a day for mothers to express milk. 'I have to express milk in the public toilet in my company. It's embarrassing, but I have no choice. And I don't complain to my boss,' she said. Many mothers complain that hospitals do not provide training in how to stimulate milk secretion or take care of their breasts. Instead, nurses, possibly sponsored by the formula business, supply them with free powdered milk. A 30-year-old mother said she had to give up breastfeeding in her son's third month because she did not know how to massage her breasts to remedy blocked glands. Chen Shuzhen of Beijing Maternity Hospital said the rising incidence of Caesarean births affected women's ability to breastfeed.