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Breastfeeding Rate On The Rise

Armen Hareyan's picture

Breastfeeding Rate

Efforts of Department of Health in promoting breastfeeding has brought fruitful results as breastfeeding rate has been found to be on a rising trend in Hong Kong.

The remark was made by DH's Senior Medical Officer, Dr Wendy Wong at a press conference marking the 2007 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) organized by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association.

She said surveys conducted by DH in all Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) showed that the ever breastfeeding rate rose from 50% in 1997 to 70% in 2006. In the corresponding years, the exclusive breastfeeding rate for four to six months also increased from 6% to 13.5%.

However, Dr Wong pointed out there was still room for the rate to grow further in view of the higher rates reported in some other countries in the World.

She appealed to all sectors of the community for continued and concerted efforts so that mothers can be given sufficient information, encouragement and support to start and maintain breastfeeding for longer periods for the better health of children here.

"There is no doubt that breastmilk is the best natural food for our babies. The immediate and long-term health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and their mothers are well recognized.

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"For instance, breastfed babies suffer fewer incidences of diarrhoea, respiratory and middle ear infections, and are less likely to develop allergies and childhood obesity later on.

"Breastfeeding promotes emotional bonding between mother and child. It also helps mothers to recover more quickly after delivery, and reduce the risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis," she noted.

Turning to this year's WBW starting from August 1, Dr Wong said that the theme was "Breastfeeding: the 1st hour - save one million babies". To tie in with the event, DH had organised promotional activities including TV and radio advertisements, feature articles in newspapers and media interview on breastfeeding.

DH has already implemented a policy to facilitate breastfeeding by providing a supportive environment in all MCHCs and to ensure a uniform practice among the staff members in promoting breastfeeding.

All pregnant women attending MCHCs are educated about the importance of early start of breastfeeding after delivery and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.

In 2002, DH implemented a departmental policy to further promote breastfeeding among all staff members and support breastfeeding in the workplace. All service units have been encouraged to support postnatal staff to continue breastfeeding after resuming duty.

Besides providing appropriate facilities for expressing and storing breastmilk in the workplace, arrangements have been made to meet the need of staff in expressing breastmilk during working hours. Moreover, all other staff members are urged to support their breastfeeding colleagues.

Structured training programme such as the WHO/UNICEF 40-hour training course on breastfeeding counselling, refresher courses and attachments were organized to ensure that all MCHC colleagues are competent in providing professional and effective breastfeeding coaching to mothers.

To cater for the needs of breastfeeding working mothers, a series of special workshops have been launched at the MCHCs to equip them with more practical skills and help them to prepare for continuing breastfeeding upon resumption of work.