Rate of Exclusive Breastfeeding Declining in China

May 21, 2014
Editor: Arnold Hou
The latest data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) shows that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (that is, feeding a child exclusively on its mother's milk) until the age of 6 months in China's rural areas is only 30 percent, while the rate in China's urban areas is less than 16 percent. [womenimages.cn]

The latest data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) shows that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (that is, feeding a child exclusively on its mother's milk) until the age of 6 months in China's rural areas is only 30 percent, while the rate in China's urban areas is less than 16 percent.

The data shows that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in China is declining, while the decline is bigger in urban areas.

The World Health Organization describes breastfeeding as "one of the most effective ways" to ensure child health and survival and recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to the age of 6 months.

Director of the Maternal and Child Health Services Department with the NHFPC Zhang Shikun has stressed the importance of breastfeeding for a long time, saying that breastfeeding offers various health benefits to both mother and child, including increased intelligence, decreased likelihood of contracting middle ear infections, cold and flu resistance, a tiny decrease in the risk of childhood leukemia, lower risk of childhood onset diabetes, decreased risk of asthma and eczema, decreased dental problems, decreased risk of obesity later in life, and a decreased risk of developing psychological disorders.

According to breastfeeding mothers and medical experts, various factors have led to the declining rate of breastfeeding, among which the absence of a wide support system is a major factor.

More new mothers are becoming aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, but society is still blind to their needs.

The highest hurdle is the average length of maternity leave, which is usually 98 days, according to China's labor laws. But in many smaller communities and in the private sector, this entitlement is often ignored, although there are clear penalties for employers who violate this regulation.

To be able to breastfeed on the move is another difficulty nursing mothers face, and there is noticeable lack of facilities such as nursing rooms and baby stations in public places.

Zhang Shikun said that raising the rate of breastfeeding to at least 50 percent and even 60 percent was listed in the National Program for Children's Development, and that the government will further enhance breastfeeding through legislation. Zhang suggested that advertisements for breast milk substitutes should be banned, the rate of cesarean section should be decreased and the length of maternity leave should be prolonged.

(Source: china.cnr.cn/Translated by womenofchina.cn)

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