|A mother breastfeeds her baby at a mall during an activity in celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week in Beijing, capital of China, Aug 6, 2016. [Xinhua]|
Research indicates many benefits of breast-feeding, yet the breast-feeding rate in China has remained low. In cities and villages, women have become crucial family wage earners and the practical difficulties new mothers wanting to breast-feed face prompt many to resort to formula powders. Apart from their heavy workloads and tight schedules, the short maternity leave — no more than four months in most cases — and the lack of breast-feeding facilities and nurseries in workplaces all discourage breast-feeding.
The dairy industry has taken advantage of this situation to successfully create the illusion that their formula products can be a substitute for breast milk, remaining silent about the fact that breast-feeding does more than just provide babies with nourishment.
Research shows that breast-feeding lowers the risk of women developing breast cancer and endometrial cancer, and breast-feeding also effectively strengthens the emotional ties between mothers and children.
That's why the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund have jointly advocated that breast-feeding should start within one hour after a child's birth, babies less than 6 months old should only take breast milk and water, and breast-feeding should continue as an important source of energy and nutrition till babies reach at least the age of 2, even though they should receive supplementary food.
That being said, rather than simply granting longer maternity leave or providing facilities and nursery services in workplaces, it is the stigma against breast-feeding outside the home and the ingrained gender discrimination in workplaces that are the most difficult challenges to overcome.
It is a tacit agreement in many workplaces that maternity leave invariably puts the working mothers in unfavorable positions in the competition for limited promotions.
Although it violates related laws and regulations, it is not uncommon for it to be insinuated to female employees that they should take the initiative to quit their jobs, or they may be sacked, if they intend to ask for maternity leave longer than the one stipulated by their employers. Maternity leave is also a major reason why the employers prefer male employees.
Although it is necessary to raise the public's awareness of the benefits of breast-feeding on its national publicity day each year, it will take more than this to boost the breast-feeding rate nationwide, and it will involve not only women, but more importantly policymakers and the whole society.
(Source: China Daily)
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