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Chinese new mothers face challenges to feed their babies, either by breast-feeding or formula. Photos provided to China Daily
With many Chinese families having only one child, parents give their babies the best they can afford, especially when it comes to milk and food. Liu Zhihua looks at a recent ruckus that caused many mothers to furrow their brows.
When the Hong Kong authorities decided to restrict the amount of baby formula (two cans or about 1.8 kg) that visitors can take out of the city, that regulation sent ripples of indignation throughout the mainland, and many cried foul, and even more said the new rule was merciless.
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The outcry is the result of a long chain of events, which started after melamine was found in milk powder produced on the mainland. This safety scandal made parents look abroad for safer infant formula for their babies, and Hong Kong became an important source.
Scores of buyers cleared the shelves in Hong Kong, resulting in a flood of protests from Hong Kong parents, who had suddenly found their milk supplies drying up.
One of the better side effects of this confidence crisis is that more new mothers in China are choosing to breast-feed their babies.
"Nothing is better than mother's milk," says Liu Zhaoqiu, a children's healthcare specialist with the No 1 Hospital of Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Breast milk is rich in antibodies and nutrients, and provides the child with a head start in health, growth and development. Breastfeeding also strengthens the bond between mother and child, which is good for the children's psychological development, Liu says.
Excluding unusual cases, such as mothers with infectious diseases and severe heart disease, Liu recommends breast-feeding for the first six months, after which mother's milk should be complemented with other foods up to two years and later.
"I breast-feed my daughter, and I'm confident that breast-feeding is the best and safest food for her," says Yang Yang, 38, a mother of a 9-month-old girl in Beijing. She is a consultant who works from home and did not realize the benefits of breast-feeding at first.
After her baby was born, she fed the infant with an imported baby formula that was sent to her by relatives living abroad.