Congress to consider privacy issue

By Cao Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-27 07:33

SHANGHAI: Delegates at the upcoming session of the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress will tackle a more unusual topic when it begins on Sunday breastfeeding privacy.

New mother Lu, from the city's suburban Jiading District, appealed to the mayor for baby-care rooms to be set up in public places in a recent e-mail in which she described an embarrassing breastfeeding experience on a train.

"My baby started crying when I was on the train that day and I knew he was hungry," Lu said.

"I hesitated to begin with, but decided to feed him when he got louder and louder.

"I knew some people were staring, some disapproved and I felt embarrassed, but I had no choice."

Lu later visited Internet forums for support, but found most people were offended by mothers breastfeeding their children in public places.

Angry and frustrated, Lu wrote to the mayor's office, who forwarded the e-mail to the Shanghai Women's Federation. The federation plans to propose baby-care facilities in public places at the annual session of the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress, which will discuss major economic and social issues. The session will open on January 28.

"We hope baby-care facilities will be established in all public places and ideally they should be next to women's toilets to allow more privacy and convenience," federation official Shi Qiuqin said.

"Breast milk is the most healthy food for babies, especially in the first six months of life, but lack of proper facilities in public places makes it difficult for mothers to breastfeed when they are out."

In 2006, more than 130,000 babies were born in the city. It is expecting a baby boom this year and next as many young women born in the late 1970s and early 1980s become mothers.

But according to a survey conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), breastfeeding rates during the first four months of life in China have been declining from around 76 percent in 1998 to 64 percent at present. And in big cities like Shanghai, where more women work, the rate is lower.

Xiao Hong, mother of a 1-year-old boy, said she almost never went out during her maternity leave, as she had to take care of her son.

"I never breastfed my child in public places. It's much too revealing," she said.

"Even when I breastfed at home, I would not do it until others left the room. I don't want others to see my naked body.

"It would be much more convenient if there were facilities for mothers in the public places."

(China Daily 01/27/2007 page3)

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