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Breastfeeding rate on the rise

    The efforts of the Department of Health in promoting breastfeeding has brought results with breastfeeding rate increasing in Hong Kong.

     The remark was made today (July 28) by the department's Senior Medical Officer, Dr Wendy Wong at a press conference marking the 2007 World Breastfeeding Week organised by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association.

     She said surveys conducted by the department in all Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) showed that the 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.

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

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

     "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 said.

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

     The Department of Health has already implemented a policy to facilitate breastfeeding by providing a supportive environment in all MCHCs and to ensure a uniform practice among 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, the department implemented a 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. All other staff members are urged to support their breastfeeding colleagues.

     Structured training programmes such as the WHO/UNICEF 40-hour training course on breastfeeding counselling, refresher courses and attachments were organised 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.

Ends/Saturday, July 28, 2007
Issued at HKT 14:00


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