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LCQ16: Breastfeeding

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     The World Health Organization has pointed out that breastfeeding ensures that infants will be provided with the nutrients they need for healthy growth, and recommended mothers to breastfeed exclusively up to six months of age of infants, with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond. In addition, the Department of Health, the Hospital Authority and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association (BFHIHKA) under the United Nations Children's Fund released the results of the annual survey of BFHIHKA on July 28, 2012, indicating that the breastfeeding rate of infants born in Hong Kong before they are discharged from hospitals has been rising since 1992, reaching 83.3% in 2011. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has compiled statistics on the breastfeeding rates of infants in the first six months, one year and two years after discharge from hospitals; if it has, of the details; if not, whether the Government will compile statistics; if it will, of the specific timetable;

(b) whether it knows the respective numbers of venues with breastfeeding rooms (BF rooms) and baby-sitting rooms (BS rooms) for public use in Government office buildings, recreational and sports facilities under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, public transport interchanges, public markets under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, MTR stations and shopping centres in Hong Kong, and their percentages in the total number of the venues concerned (set out in Table 1), from 2008 to the first half of 2012; whether the Government has any specific plan to encourage shopping centres to provide BF rooms and BS rooms; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether it has any specific measure to encourage employers to provide BF rooms and BS rooms in the workplace, and provide breast pumping and breastfeeding time to employees; if it has, of the details; if not, whether it has plans to put in place such measures;

(d) whether it will plan to carry out publicity and public education through the mass media, so as to promote breastfeeding; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether it has promoted breastfeeding to the public through different channels; if it has, of the details, and the amount of publicity expenditures in the past five years (set out in Table 2).



     Breastfeeding is an important public health issue. The World Health Organization 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 implements 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) DH carries out breastfeeding surveys in its maternal and child health centres (MCHCs) on a regular basis.  According to the findings of the survey in 2011, of the babies born in 2010, the percentage of babies breastfed continuously for one month, two months, four months, six months and twelve months was 60%, 45%, 34%, 25% and 10% respectively, while the percentage of babies exclusively breastfed for one month, two months and four to six months was respectively 19%, 18% and 15%.

     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 over the past 10 years from 60% in 2001 to 83% in 2011.  The Government will continue its efforts to further enhance the breastfeeding rate in Hong Kong.

(b) The Government has been actively promoting the provision of babycare facilities in government offices and public places. The Government developed the Advisory Guidelines on Babycare Facilities in August 2008 for reference by government departments and public organisations. As at July 2012, there were some 170 babycare rooms in government premises (Please refer to Table 3). The latest information is available at DH's website and will be updated from time to time. In the coming few years, a minimum of 50 new babycare rooms will be provided in government premises.  These new babycare rooms will not only be provided in the facilities under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department frequented by the general public (such as stadia, libraries and cultural centres) but also in the community facilities under the Home Affairs Department and in new shopping malls in housing estates built by the Hosing Department.

     Besides, to encourage and facilitate the provision of babycare rooms in private commercial premises, the Government has issued a Practice Note on the Provision of Babycare Rooms in Commercial Buildings (the Practice Note) since February 2009. Property developers have responded favourably. For instance, the Link and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation have provided additional babycare rooms on their premises on a continuous basis, the Urban Renewal Authority has made it a mandatory tendering requirement for babycare rooms to be provided, with reference to the Practice Note, at all medium-to-large shopping arcades.  Babycare and breastfeeding facilities are also made available, according to needs, in some large shopping malls, department stores, and hotels etc.

(c) The Government has all along endeavoured to promote and support breastfeeding. DH has put into implementation a departmental policy to support post-natal staff to continue breastfeeding in the workplace. All its service units have been encouraged to take care of the needs of breastfeeding mothers to continue breastfeeding including provision of appropriate facilities for expressing and storing breast milk in the workplace, as well as arrangements to meet the needs of staff in expressing breast milk during working hours such as allowing staff to have about two sessions of 30 minutes within a period of eight working hours for expression of breast milk.  

(d) and (e) To further raise public awareness about breastfeeding, the Government has been making a lot of efforts to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding and to provide local mothers with sufficient information and promote breastfeeding to the public through various channels through DH and HA.

     DH has implemented in MCHCs the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes promulgated by the World Health Organization and the United Nation Children's Fund and offered assistance in all MCHCs to help mothers build a supportive environment for breastfeeding as well as providing local mothers with sufficient information through pamphlets, breastfeeding hotline, promotional videos and feature articles on newspapers. To cater for the needs of breastfeeding working mothers, MCHCs have launched a series of workshops to equip them with practical skills so that they could be better prepared to sustain breastfeeding after returning to work.  DH has also published features articles and received media interviews on the subject of breastfeeding and infants' healthy diet. In collaboration with local voluntary organisations, talks on breastfeeding, community exhibitions, peer counselling programmes have been held on a regular basis so as to encourage various sectors of the community to promote breastfeeding and sharing of the experience of breastfeeding and to unify force in promoting breastfeeding to the public. In addition, DH plans to roll out further community publicity activities in phases, including increasing the showing of promotional videos on breastfeeding on buses as well as advertising on bus bodies etc., so as to enhance the awareness of the public towards breastfeeding.

     On the front of public hospitals, HA organises training programmes, talks, exhibitions and seminars every year to arouse its staff's awareness in supporting and protecting breastfeeding. Starting from April 1, 2010, HA purchases milk powder from contract suppliers by tender and no longer accepts free samples of breast-milk substitutes. It is also stipulated in the tender contracts that the suppliers must comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes of the World Health Organization, which aims at ensuring that the sale and advertising of breast-milk substitutes will not discourage breastfeeding so as to raise the breastfeeding rate of newborn babies further.

     As DH promotes breastfeeding to the public mainly through its Family Health Service and the funding required is included in the recurrent expenditure of the Service, no statistical figures have been separately kept for the expenditure on promotion of breastfeeding.

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 17:58


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