The Department of Health (DH), the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association (BFHIHKA), the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF HK) and the Hospital Authority together held an event on 28 July to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week 2017, hoping to further enhance public support for breastfeeding in Hong Kong.

Officiating at the event, the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, said that the breastfeeding rate on hospital discharge in Hong Kong recorded a significant increase from 19% in 1992 to 87% in 2016 while the exclusive breastfeeding rate among 4-month-old babies grew from 19% in 2012 to 31% in 2016.

"This encouraging trend could be attributed to the concerted efforts of relevant stakeholders and parties, working in collaboration to implement the multi-pronged strategies as recommended by the government's Committee on Promotion of Breastfeeding to strengthen the support in healthcare facilities, encourage the adoption of breastfeeding-friendly workplace policies and promote breastfeeding-friendly premises," she noted.

Ensuring parents make informed decisions free from commercial influence


To collect information on parental exposure to the marketing of formula milk and related products (such as feeding bottles and teats) for infants and young children, the DH commissioned a survey in 2015 and found that nearly 90% of some 550 respondents reported having seen or heard of such advertisements within the three preceding months, mostly from the electronic media, on the Internet and at the point of sale.

Chan said, "Enabling parents to make informed decisions on infant feeding free from commercial influence is one of our key supportive measures. To address the impacts of formula milk promotional activities on breastfeeding, the Government launched the voluntary Hong Kong Code of Marketing of Formula Milk and Related Products and Food Products for Infants and Young Children (HK Code) in June this year, which aims to promote breastfeeding and ensure the proper use of breastmilk substitutes to provide safe and adequate nutrition for infants and young children through appropriate marketing based on adequate and unbiased information."

The Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, delivers welcoming remarks at a celebration event for World Breastfeeding Week 2017 today (July 28). Photo credit: GovHK
The Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, delivers welcoming remarks at a celebration event for World Breastfeeding Week 2017 today (July 28). Photo credit: GovHK

Under the HK Code, which is applicable to the marketing of formula milk and related products as well as food products for infants and children below 36 months old, good marketing practices will be promoted and guidance will be given to relevant sectors including traders, healthcare workers and healthcare facilities, as well as childcare workers and childcare facilities.

Provision of babycare facilities


"Another major concern is the provision of sufficient babycare facilities in public premises and lactation rooms at workplaces. The government is working to impose a mandatory requirement for the provision of babycare facilities and lactation rooms in the land sale conditions of new commercial developments on suitable government land sale sites. We will also take corresponding measures to mandate the provision of such facilities in certain new government premises," Chan added.

Also attending the event, the Vice-chairperson of the BFHIHKA, Dr Wing-cheong Leung, said, "We conduct an annual survey on the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding among hospitals with maternity units in Hong Kong and we are pleased to see more paediatric doctors receiving training on breastfeeding, more mothers and babies rooming-in from birth after normal deliveries, and more private hospitals making an effort in the area."

The Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan (back row, left), and the Deputy Director of Health, Dr Cindy Lai (back row, right), join a group photo with breastfed children at a celebration event for World Breastfeeding Week 2017 on 28 July 28. Photo credit: GovHK
The Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan (back row, left), and the Deputy Director of Health, Dr Cindy Lai (back row, right), join a group photo with breastfed children at a celebration event for World Breastfeeding Week 2017 on 28 July 28. Photo credit: GovHK

The Chairman of the Advocacy and Public Relations Committee of UNICEF HK, Miss King-chi Au, said, "In an effort to advance, protect and respect nursing mothers' privacy and rights, we have worked with the DH and the transport sector and witnessed the setting up of nursing rooms on ferries since last year. This year, we are happy that our Breastfeeding at Public Places initiative has also received active participation from taxi service providers, which marks a significant step in extending a friendly environment to mothers for nursing and breastfeeding babies during taxi rides. We hope to see more transportation providers join the initiative to support nursing mothers and help give a good start to every child."

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually worldwide in the first week of August. The theme for this year is "Sustaining Breastfeeding Together", which aims to promote sustained breastfeeding by promulgating multi-sectoral collaboration and partnership in support of breastfeeding families. The WHO recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively in the first six months. Thereafter, solid foods should be introduced while breastfeeding can continue until the child is 2 years old or above. MIMS

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