Mom’s Corner

© UNICEF HK/2012

Mom’s Corner

UNICEF HK in collaboration with the Food and Health Bureau and the Department of Health, launched the community support campaign to call for workplace, public premises and every Hong Kong citizen to support breastfeeding mothers.

How should I breastfeed?

UNICEF and the World Health Organization make recommendations on breastfeeding as follows:

  • Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after the birth;
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months;
  • Continued breastfeeding for two years or more, together with safe, nutritionally adequate, age appropriate, responsive complementary feeding starting from the age of six months.

Babies do not need liquids other than breastmilk, not even water, in the first 6 months as breastmilk contains all the water a baby needs, even in very hot climates.

Why breastfeeding?

  • Breastfed, best fed – in terms of its profound impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development.

Breastmilk provides all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals an infant needs for growth for the first six months, and no other liquids or food are needed. In addition, breastmilk carries antibodies from the mother that help combat disease.

The act of breastfeeding itself stimulates proper growth of the mouth and jaw, and secretion of hormones for digestion and satiety. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of chronic conditions later in life, such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, childhood asthma and childhood leukemia.

Globally, breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers (Lancet 2008).

Even in industrialized countries, studies find that non-breastfed children are also at greater risk of dying and getting major disease. A recent study of post-neonatal mortality in the United States found a 25 per cent increase in mortality among non-breastfed infants. In the UK Millennium Cohort Survey, six months of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a 53 per cent decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhoea and a 27 per cent decrease in respiratory tract infections.

A ‘Children of 1997′ cohort study in Hong Kong found that breastfeeding is associated with less hospital admissions for diarrhoea and chest infections and fewer illness related visits to doctors. By promoting breastfeeding, it can lessen the burden posed to our health care system.

  • Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby.

The interaction between the mother and child during breastfeeding has positive implications for life, in terms of stimulation, behaviour, speech, sense of wellbeing and security and social interaction.

  •  Breastfed babies are smarter.

Studies have shown that breastfed infants score better on intelligence and behavioural tests with better educational attainment and income in adulthood than formula-fed babies.

  • Breastfeeding is good for mothers’ health.

Breastfeeding contributes to maternal health immediately after the delivery because it helps reduce the risk of post-partum haemorrhage.  In the short term, breastfeeding delays the return to fertility and in the long term, it reduces type 2 diabetes. Studies have also found an association between early cessation of breastfeeding and post natal depression in mothers.

  • Virtually every mother can breastfeed.

Few mothers cannot breastfeed for medically reasons. If given appropriate support, advice and encouragement, as well as practical assistance to resolve any problems, most mothers can breastfeed. Studies have shown that early skin to skin contact between mothers and babies in addition to frequent and unrestricted breastfeeding help ensure continued production of milk. Support with positioning and attaching the baby increase the chances of breastfeeding being successful.

Please click here for more information on breastfeeding by Department of Health.

Risks of artificial feeding / mixed feeding – are you aware of it?

Formula is not an acceptable substitute for breastmilk because formula, at its best, only replaces most of the nutritional components of breastmilk: it is just a food, whereas breastmilk is a complex living nutritional fluid containing antibodies, enzymes, long chain fatty acids and hormones, many of which simply cannot be included in formula.

Furthermore, in the first few months, it is harder for the baby’s gut to absorb formula milk than breastmilk. Even one feeding of formula or other foods can have an impact on the gut, taking weeks for the baby to recover.

Mixed feeding can pose risks to an infant’s health. Giving other liquids and/or foods together with breastmilk to infants under 6 months of age can increase the chance of them getting diarrhoea and other infectious diseases. Mixed feeding, especially giving water or other liquids, can cause the supply of breastmilk to decrease as the baby sucks less at the breast.

Artificial feeding is expensive and carries risks of additional illness and death, particularly in locales where the levels of infectious disease are high and access to safe water is poor. Formula-feeding poses many practical challenges for mothers in developing countries, including ensuring the formula is mixed with clean water, that dilution is correct, that sufficient quantities of formula can continually be acquired and that the feeding utensils, especially if bottles are used, can be adequately cleaned.

Mixed feeding increases the risk of mother to child transmission of HIV. Exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months was associated with a three to four fold decreased risk of transmission of HIV compared to mixed feeding breastfeeding in several African studies.

How can I express my wish to my boss and coworkers if I want to continue breastfeeding my baby after returning to work?

When to discuss?

  1. Express your wish during pregnancy and before maternity leave starts

Discuss with the Management about the importance of breastfeeding and your intention to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Communicate clearly the specific support you need that enables you to express breastmilk at work. This will facilitate the management to make a better work arrangement for you and better preparation for the workplace.

  1. Express your wish after returning to work

Show your appreciation to the management and coworkers for their support to your breastfeeding. Keep your promises about the work arrangement, lactation breaks, use of breastmilk expression area and milk storage facility. Talk to your coworkers to understand their concerns and work together to find solutions.


Discuss what?

  • First, begin the conversation with expressing your gratitude to the management’s support at work
  • Share with your employer why you would like to breastfeed. Stress the importance.
    (You may refer the benefits of breastfeeding mentioned above)
  • Express your specific needs
    Explain to your employer and coworkers on your basic needs, e.g. lactation breaks, a private space to express milk, refrigerator in the pantry for keeping the breast milk; and also possible options of work arrangement to enable you to continue breastfeeding with minimum work disturbance

An Employee’s Guide – to Combining Breastfeeding with work


(Published by Family Health Service, Department of Health)

Have questions?

Call the Baby Friendly Hotline 2838 7727 run by UNICEF HK Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association. We receive public enquiries daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. about breastfeeding.

From 6 p.m., our volunteer hotline counsellors, who are qualified and experienced breastfeeding experts will call back to answer the enquiries and provide professional advice on breastfeeding.