LCQ8: Breastfeeding

     Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (February 23):


     The World Health Organization has pointed out that breastmilk is the best food for the healthy growth and development of babies, and that babies under six months of age should preferably be exclusively breastfed, and then continue to be breastfed supplemented by other foods until the age of two or above. Regarding the promotion of breastfeeding in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the respective current percentages of babies who are exclusively breastfed in the first month and within six months of birth, as well as the percentages of those who continue to be breastfed supplemented by other foods until the age of two; of the criteria based on which the authorities assess if breastfeeding in Hong Kong has reached a satisfactory level;

(b) whether the authorities had conducted any research or survey in the past three years to gauge whether the public, particularly parents of new-born babies, understand that breastmilk is more beneficial to babies' healthy growth and development than infant formula, the public's knowledge of infant formula, and the influence of infant formula advertisements on mothers' decision on whether or not they will breastfeed and when they will use infant formula; if they had, of the details; if not, whether the authorities have any plan to conduct such a survey to provide the basis for promoting breastfeeding and regulating infant formula; and

(c) whether, when drawing up the Hong Kong Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, the task force set up by the Food and Health Bureau will organise group discussions to understand the situation and needs of parents using breastmilk substitutes, as well as consult businessmen who manufacture and sell breastmilk substitutes, to ensure effective implementation of the Code in the future in order to protect babies' health and development?



     Breastfeeding is an important public health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding as the way of providing the best food for healthy growth and development of infants. It recommends that babies under six months of age should preferably be exclusively breastfed, and then continue to be breastfed along with supplementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. The Government has all along endeavoured to promote, protect and support breastfeeding, and implement this policy through the Department of Health (DH) and Hospital Authority (HA). Healthcare professionals provide counselling service for breastfeeding mothers, and help post-natal women acquire breastfeeding skills and tackle the problems they may encounter during breastfeeding.

(a) The DH carries out regular breastfeeding surveys in its maternal and child health centres (MCHCs). The survey findings indicated that of the babies born in 2008, the percentage of ever-breastfed babies was 74%. Among them, the percentage of babies breastfed continuously for one month, two months, four months, six months and twelve months was 54%, 40%, 31%, 24% and 10% respectively, while the percentage of babies exclusively breastfed for four to six months was 12.7%.

     Over the past 10 years, the Government has been working to promote breastfeeding. Such efforts have borne fruits, as evidenced by the increase in the percentage of newborn babies who had been ever-breastfed from 55% in 2000 to 77% in 2009. The Government will continue its efforts to further enhance the breastfeeding rate in Hong Kong.

(b) The DH has recently conducted a survey to gauge the knowledge, attitude and behaviour of about 1,000 parents, who have children aged one to four, on feeding of young children with milk products. The findings will be officially released in mid-2011. The data of the findings preliminarily shows that some parents do not have a thorough understanding of a balanced diet for babies and infants. The DH will continue to publicise positive health information through different channels to enhance parents' understanding on diet for babies and infants.  It also plans to produce a parenting education kit on healthy diet for babies and infants, which will include a parents' handbook, education VCDs and recipes, etc.

(c) The Government will put in place a Hong Kong Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Hong Kong Code), with the aim to exercise regulation over the manufacturers and distributors of breast-milk substitutes so as to prohibit them from advertising and marketing their breast-milk substitutes and related products by way of malpractice. In developing the Code, the Government will take into account the details and scope of regulation recommended in the WHO Code. In the light of some overseas experience, no negotiation will be made with manufacturers and distributors of breast-milk substitutes during the process. When the Code comes into effect, we will monitor its implementation to ensure that the correct information reaches the parents.

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:08