First-time mother Yvonne Lam Ho-yi didn’t expect she would have to hide in order to breastfeed her newborn son in public. But cradling her wailing baby and with no place to go in a crowded mall, her only option was to duck back into her car, away from others’ prying gaze. “Breastfeeding in public in Hong Kong attracts weird looks from passers-by, and I feel embarrassed, like I’m doing something wrong,” said Lam. “Chinese people are a bit conservative.” I NTERACTIVE: Hong Kong breastfeeding map - the public places where you can nurse your child Now more than 60 restaurants across the city pledged a change so that breastfeeding mothers could feel welcome. As part of Unicef’s Hong Kong’s “Say Yes to Breastfeeding” campaign in collaboration with the government’s health authorities, businesses ranging from McDonald’s to Victoria Harbour Restaurant made commitments to implement breastfeeding-friendly policies. The restaurants, affixing “Breastfeeding Friendly Premises” stickers to their front doors, trained staff to help breastfeeding mothers like Lam. Some businesses set aside tables or rooms with greater privacy and to give breastfeeding mothers priority service. Jane Lau Yuk-yin, Unicef Hong Kong’s chief executive, said: “Breastfeeding is not just about supporting mothers and babies. It’s about our city’s public health and social development.” According to the World Health Organisation , breast milk is the ideal food for infants as it contains all the nutrients and antibodies needed for their healthy development. Exclusively feeding infants breast milk for six months also protects them against common illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two main causes of child mortality worldwide. Lau said increased awareness over the years led to a steady rise in local breastfeeding rates for mothers in hospital. Last year, figures for mothers who tried breastfeeding in hospital hit a new high of 86.3 per cent, compared to under 20 per cent in 1992, a Unicef report revealed. READ MORE: Hong Kong lags behind in support for breastfeeding mothers However, a Department of Health survey of babies born in 2012 found sustained exclusive breastfeeding rates were low after hospital discharge. Some 22 per cent of babies were breastfed for one month, but by the time they reached six months, only 2.3 per cent were being breastfed. Comparatively, Taiwan’s exclusive breastfeeding rate at six months was 27.9 per cent in 2013; the US was at 16.4 per cent. “Mothers encounter a lot of difficulties trying to breastfeed in public,” said Lau, who cited a lack of breastfeeding-friendly public facilities in the city and the public’s low acceptance levels. Ten McDonald’s stores trialled their breastfeeding-friendly policies in August, and said they heard positive feedback both from staff and the public. READ MORE: Mothers assert their right to breastfeed in public with demonstration on Hong Kong’s Star Ferry Wendy Lam Yuen-mui, senior director of corporate affairs for McDonald’s Hong Kong, described how a family accommodated a breastfeeding mother. “A family sitting in the area designated for breastfeeding mothers willingly gave up their seats in the middle of their meals upon request from the staff when a mother was in need,” she said. Lau added that the campaign was not targeted simply at asking stores to allocate more space, but to change people’s perception.