Chinese women should be given more maternity leave to better breastfeed their babies, in line with World Health Organization recommendations, a leading pediatrician suggests.
Mothers feed their babies during a breastfeeding campaign in Indonesia's Java province August 14, 2007. [Agencies/file]
Although China currently follows WHO guidelines and has among the most breastfeeding mothers in the world, the current policies do not guarantee sufficient care for new mothers, Ding Zongyi, president of the Child Health Committee under the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, said.
Breastfeeding is recommended by the WHO as the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Normally, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months.
According to China's Labor Law, women should receive no fewer than 90 days statutory maternity leave and not more than 15 days' pre-delivery leave.
They are also given the chance to have another 30 or 45 days' leave, depending on several conditions, such as the statutory age for late childbearing and delivery methods.
"New mothers should have at least six months' maternity leave to meet the WHO's recommendation, or working will affect the quality of the milk," Ding told China Daily.
"Also, the physical condition of new mothers should not be neglected. A healthy, happy mother can provide more nutritious milk to her baby," he said.
Before maternity leave is modified, the administration should encourage employers to arrange transportation to pick up breastfeeding mothers and set up a special room for breastfeeding, he suggested.
"All these measures are in the best interests of new mothers and will help encourage more women to breastfeed their children," Ding said.
His ideas received warm welcome from mothers-to-be.
"Many of my friends gave up feeding their children so they could go back to work, but I insisted."
Renee Wang, a mother of a 19-month-old girl in Shanghai, said: "People without such experience cannot imagine how tough it is to feed your child while working."
Yang Min, a civil servant in Shenzhen, said it is fair to get six months' leave.
"Breastfeeding is good for both babies and moms. I hope I can feed my baby as long as it wants it," said the mom-to-be, who is expecting to give birth in late December.