Sep 20, 2008

Lifestyle - Chinese relearn merits of breastfeeding

HONG KONG: “A mother’s milk cures a hundred ailments,” goes an ancient Chinese saying. But in a country where there existed a tradition of ‘wet nurses’—nannies who breastfed babies when the mother couldn’t—there has in recent times been a striking decline in the practice of breastfeeding.

The reason: a lack of general awareness about the merits of breastfeeding, the hardsell of baby food formulas, the pressures on women to return quickly to work after childbirth, and, in some cases, a bizarre and vain misconception that breastfeeding would ruin their figure.

All that may be changing overnight, following the death or hospitalisation of babies in China after consuming tainted baby food formula.

On Internet bulletin boards and mothers’ support groups, there has been an avalanche of enquiries in recent days from mothers wanting to know more about the subject, and questioning some of the misconceptions around it.

Doctors in hospitals in Guangzhou in southern China say that a majority of mothers today cannot lactate because their excessively rigid “diet regimen” in the interests of a “beautiful figure” had pushed them to the edge of malnutrition. Dr Zhang Yujie at the Number One People’s Hospital says that young mothers also did not wish to stay “confined” for long after childbirth and typically entrusted childrearing responsibilities to the grandparents.

Beauty-obsessed women were also increasingly wearing figure-hugging bras, unaware that they could injure their mammary glands and affect their lactation after childbirth, doctors say.

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