China’s National Health Commission last month issued a notice urging hospitals to establish breastfeeding hotlines and classes for new parents, and ran a series of adverts on social media, television and newspapers urging women to breastfeed “to protect their baby”.
But Tang insists a systemic overhaul is needed, warning that the government’s approach is “not going to help because people have to be taught the skills to breastfeed”.
“Policy makers need to focus on the lack of lactation specialists at hospitals, peer education, and how to create a supporting family environment,” he says, adding that authorities also need to regulate formula firms to protect new parents.
Education is vital, he says, suggesting workshops for the entire family during prenatal visits, and even using popular TV soaps to deliver the right information without pressure.
For some, the case is clear. Chao Anya takes her child to client meetings and is not afraid to nurse “any time, anywhere.”
She explains: “Some clients are shocked, but others support my behavior. I just tell them, my breastmilk is the best I can give my child and I won’t settle for anything less.”
by Helen Roxburgh and Poornima Weerasekara/afp