Picture yourself in a rocking chair holding your new baby close to your chest, providing your sweet little one with warmth, comfort and the best possible nutrition. Breastfeeding is a treasured bonding time where you get to know and nourish your baby. Thankfully, Hong Kong has made great strides in maternity rights and implemented a support network for new breastfeeding mothers in the city.
There are many advantages of breastfeeding for moms and babies. While some women around the world encounter obstacles to breastfeeding, mothers in Hong Kong can breastfeed as a fundamental human right. This article will discuss the benefits of breastfeeding, the obstacles mothers may encounter, and the articles that protect Hong Kong mothers who breastfeed.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
In addition to reducing rates of breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer in mothers, breastfeeding provides many advantages to both the physical and emotional health of the baby.
According to a 2016 study, breastfeeding benefits are long-lasting. Adults who were breastfed as babies:
scored lower in psychological traits like neuroticism, anxiety, and hostility, and
scored higher in openness and optimism than those not breastfed (source).
Breast milk contains antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria, reducing the occurrence of common issues like:
Some childhood cancers
Is Breastfeeding Legal in Hong Kong?
Although breastfeeding in public is a subject of cultural controversy, public breastfeeding is entirely legal in the city.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) came into force in Hong Kong in 1994. The document preserves your baby’s rights to growth and development (Article 6), and the highest achievable standard of health (Article 24). This means that the government has the duty of educating parents about the benefits of breastfeeding, and of providing families with breastfeeding support.
Challenges of Breastfeeding in Hong Kong
Although the Department of Health introduced supportive breastfeeding initiatives that led to the increase of breastfeeding mothers in 2015 (up to 89% of mothers in Hong Kong), many mothers give up the practice within just a few months. There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, the main reason women stop breastfeeding in the first three months after birth is due to the responsibilities of work (source). Maternity leave in the city usually lasts for a short 10 weeks and flexible working arrangements are hard to negotiate with many employers. Additionally, there aren’t many breastfeeding-friendly workplaces in the city.
Since 2015, the Hong Kong government has been trying to fight discrimination. The Food and Health Bureau (FHB) encouraged government and private facilities to implement “breastfeeding friendly workplace” policies and measures to facilitate new moms to continue breastfeeding after their return to work (source).
Secondly, the sale of infant formula has become a multi-billion dollar business and thus, the marketing has gotten more and more aggressive through the years (source). Paired with the difficulties, such as pain during breastfeeding, an inadequate latch or milk transfer, many mothers have opted to use formula instead.
Finally, as we mentioned previously, breastfeeding in public is still considered taboo. According to UNICEF, more than 80 percent of breastfeeding Hong Kong mothers have fed their babies in public, and 40 percent of them have encountered uncomfortable situations (source).
While breastfeeding in public is legal, many women struggle with this negative treatment. In 2016, 100 mothers gathered in the city to protest the stigma of breastfeeding in Hong Kong. They did not yell or picket, they merely breastfed their babies out in public at Tai Wai train station. (source) These mothers passionately feel that breastfeeding is seen as a healthy, normal part of daily life.
Times are changing. The government is working to promote breastfeeding as the norm. As mothers are empowered and included at the population level, breastfeeding in public will become the norm. We support your rights to feed your baby in whatever way works best for you and your family.
How OT&P Supports Breastfeeding Woman
Whether you’re expecting or have already welcomed your little one into the world, OT&P has a variety of services to support you in providing the best nutrition for your baby.
Our antenatal classes provide breastfeeding preparation for expectant parents, along with childbirth education and prenatal classes between 26 and 30 weeks. We also teach breastfeeding skills and provide support in the postnatal period through clinic consultations, phone/video calls, or the open mum & baby walk-in clinic.
Besides that, we tailor home visits according to your family’s needs and help you prevent common breastfeeding issues like:
Breast pain or mastitis
Review infant latch
Breastfeeding frequency and duration
How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
You can choose whatever option works best for your growing family. Having direct access to midwives will allow you to have constant breastfeeding support, so you can give your baby the best start in life.