Nursing Mothers Stage Feed-In

Amid the controversy of forced abortions and China sending its first woman into space, women’s issues have once again become the focus of media attention. The Global Times reports 30 mothers staged a breast-feeding flash mob to call for better public facilities:

Some 30 mothers appeared at a shopping mall in the provincial capital Wuhan with their children and started breastfeeding in public at around 11 am. Their actions caught the public’s attention as shopping traffic at the mall reached its height. The women dispersed quietly after a five-minute public display.

The Ministry of Health said that it aims to have half of China’s mothers breastfeeding before 2020. Now only 30 percent of infants are nursed exclusively by their mothers.

A press officer of the Shanghai Women’s Federation, surnamed Huang, told the Global Times that mothers can better balance work and family if offices are better equipped to cater to their needs.

Less than 5 percent of office buildings in Shanghai have special nursing rooms for breastfeeding mothers.

Due to traces of melamine found in certain Chinese baby formulas, Chinese moms are opting to buy foreign baby formulas, and breast-feeding mothers are still the minority. Danwei reports on how these mothers meet and advocate breast-feeding:

They meet during chats online before slowly moving from the virtual world — often maintaining their online monikers — to form groups of friends who struggle against a tide of traditional thought, institutional stagnation and downright ignorance of how the female body works.

The power of these online groups was evident last month when the Wuhan Evening News published a story on February 9 under the title, “Young mother nurses 6-month baby into cerebral palsy” ([小心]一味追求母乳 妈妈把宝宝喂成“脑瘫”). Groups of mothers and breastfeeding advocates from Chengdu to Shanghai to Beijing took to the web to protest the article and to demand a retraction.

The La Leche League is an international non profit group that promotes breastfeeding. Several La Leche groups exist across China and many other informal groups – unaffiliated with LLL – are currently restructuring themselves into social enterprises. Together, the LLL groups and the many informal mother groups form a web of support and information for local mothers. China raised the number of breastfeeding mothers from less than 15% to 27% in the last 15 years, partly through grassroots education and top-down government enforcement of WHO and UN recommendations. The international median is just under 30%.

However, resources for breastfeeding mothers are still scarce in a society dominated by infant formula and caesarean births. Even with the scandals that rocked the infant formula industry in 2005 and 2008, most Chinese mothers still regard formula as the best option — especially foreign formula.

According to China Daily, unions are now trying to help mothers cope with their jobs and families, including offering options for nursing mothers:

The “Loving Mommy’s Room” in a downtown office building has, for the first time in Shanghai, given young career women a place to resolve the conflicts they face between work and family.

A career woman can milk her baby in a private corner in the room, which is furnished with red couches and a white coffee table. A refrigerator stands against the wall, offering a sanitary storage place for breast milk, which the mother can take home.

Currently, only about 30 percent of newborns younger than 6 months old are breast-fed exclusively on the Chinese mainland, a recent survey of Ministry of Health showed.

The Loving Mommy’s Room provides a cozy milking corner for young mothers such as Wang Junjie, who works on the 12th floor. “Without the room, I would have been forced to do my milking in the bathroom,” she said. “There is a foul smell, and the environment could hardly be described as hygenic.”


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