Body & Sports

Busy mums in China call for 'hectic' solution in feeding babies

Updated: 2009-09-22
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Qian Tingting leaves her 4-month-old girl at home when she goes to work, but this doesn't mean she stops doing her motherly duty.

The Shanghai woman hauls a large bag that contains an ice pack, a breast pump, a thermometer, a few nursing bottles and perhaps a handheld fridge, to the office.

Qian, 31, is one of a growing number of mothers in China who have thrown out their supermarket baby formula, and rely on breast milk to keep their baby healthy.

The number of women who do this has grown especially after last year's tainted milk scandal that sickened 300,000 infants.

But the popularity of breastfeeding, while a healthy choice, is not so easy for working mothers who say they're not getting cooperation from their work supervisors when it comes to pumping milk.

Qian counts herself among the lucky ones since her female boss provides a private room for her to pump milk, which she delivers to the baby.

"I was going to supplement it with formula, but the toxic baby formula scandal freaked me out. I think breast-feeding is the best for both mother and baby,"Qian said.

Breast milk is safe for eight hours at normal room temperature and could be kept a month in a fridge.

"A mother has to plan ahead,"Qian said. "It's not easy for a working mother to balance breast-feeding and work."

Despite the positive benefits of breast-feeding, the number of mothers who breast-feed in China fell from 76 percent in 1998 to 64 percent in 2002, according the United Nations Children's Fund.

But in Shanghai, the breastfeeding rate reached 89 percent by May, according to a report conducted by Shanghai Municipal Health Bureau.

Some mothers in Hangzhou, Zhengjiang Province, are using a delivery service that promises to collect and drop off milk within two hours, according to a report by China News Service.

Research has shown that breast milk has disease-fighting antibodies that kills germs and illnesses.

While it is common for Chinese people to stress the family bond, the public shows little sympathy for breast-feeding mothers.

Only a few companies reportedly provide mothers a room they can use discreetly to pump milk ,so many end up doing the task in public.

At the office, many mothers say it is challenging to pump milk in their office. Some say they get privacy only by hiding in the lady's room to pump their milk since some colleagues see it as indecent exposure.

Wu, mother of a 2-year-old boy, who had lived in the United States for several years, said breast-feeding is a natural thing that mothers should embrace.

"It's necessary for working mothers to store some breast milk because some babies do not drink milk at fixed times,"Wu said.

"I used to breast-feed my baby in public using a cloth as a cover. It's up to the onlookers to look or not, but they should respect the mother's choice,"she added.

According to Regulations Concerning the Labor Protection of Female Staff and Workers issued by the State Council, working mothers with babies under 1 year, are entitled to two feeding breaks daily, each one lasting 30 minutes.

But most mothers are unaware of this policy. However, those who know their rights are reluctant to demand time off to pump milk.

Ge Yingmin, director of women's rights department of Women's Association of Shanghai, told the Shanghai Morning Post that if a mother has difficulties arranging nursing she could apply for feeding holiday.

"But if the mother and baby are both healthy, it's OK for the company to turn down the application,"she said.

Zheng Ruoling, a professor at Xiamen University, said the public should learn to support breast-feeding mothers.

"Regulations should be amended and employers should be more supportive by making a better workplace and extend the feeding time,"Zheng said.

Source: Global Times
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