China Strives to Raise Breastfeeding Rate

August 10, 2017
By Peng YunEditor: Sherry Song

Beijing hosted a special forum on July 31 to coincide with 2017 World Breastfeeding Week which is celebrated annually at the beginning of August.

The China Development Research Foundation (CDRF) hosted the event, in association with the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Save the Children.

Scientific research shows that natural breast milk is the most ideal food to provide nutrients and immune-boosting substances to newborns; and, breastfeeding is an essential way to improve mothers and infants’ health conditions and life quality.

Based on these findings, WHO suggests that every baby should be breastfed within the first hour after birth and for the first six months of their life, without any additional food or drink. Later, they should continue to be fed milk until two or older, whilst adding some different foods at the same time.

However, globally only 40 percent of infants younger than six months are exclusively breastfed, and the figure has not increased much over the past 20 years, according to figures.

When it comes to China, officials stated that the government has done considerable work in protecting the breastfeeding rights of Chinese women, advancing the level and quality of maternal and child health services, building a caring social atmosphere and accelerating the construction of nursing facilities.

But they confessed that they still face many challenges in the field. As one of countries that have the highest female labor force participation rate in the world, over a quarter of female employees in China cannot enjoy breastfeeding leave and many work places lack nursing rooms.

Besides, a great number of illegal marketing activities of breast milk substitutes have also misled many parents to feed their babies with those products.

At the forum, Zhang Laiming, deputy director of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that the Council has released a National Nutrition Scheme (2017-2030) to enhance the breastfeeding rate. The scheme proposes the "1,000-day action" on caring for newborns' health and points out the significance of improving breastfeeding environment in society.

The deputy director of the NHFPC, Ma Xiaowei, declared that the commission would further push the scheme's implementation and strengthen hospitals' management and facilities' construction.

Song Wenzhen, deputy director of the office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women, also suggested that related departments should update regulations of maternity and paternity leave, and encouraged health departments to reinforce breastfeeding instructions to the public.

For now, many professional organizations, volunteer groups and media have started to share the merits of breastfeeding; and, experts are dedicated to research in the related field.

Since 2013, the UNICEF and the Center for Women and Children's Health under the NHFPC have jointly launched the "10㎡ of Love" campaign to raise awareness and support for breastfeeding mothers. By the end of July, the UNICEF had authenticated over 1,800 such breastfeeding rooms in China and more than 400 rooms of those were installed in offices.

(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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