Forty percent of mothers, who have directly breastfed in public, have had unpleasant experiences, a survey by the Hong Kong Committee for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has shown.
Of those breastfeeding mothers, 90 percent said they were stared at, 30 percent were advised to breastfeed in other places, and some of them were stopped in their tracks and complained to.
The results came from an online survey about breastfeeding on public premises. Over 80 percent of the 3,545 mothers surveyed said that they had breastfed in public.
The NGO said the survey also showed that mothers would be more encouraged to breastfeed in public if there was more support and acceptance from the general public, and more breastfeeding-friendly policies implemented around public premises.
It added that nearly all mothers would be more willing to breastfeed directly in public, if shopping malls welcomed them to breastfeed anywhere and at anytime.
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said the the government supported public breastfeeding. He was attending a UNICEF HK event on Thursday to inaugurate a breastfeeding-friendly shopping mall.
Citing a Department of Health survey last year, Ko said 80 percent of the 2,000 respondents said they accepted mothers breastfeeding next to them, and that they agreed breastfeeding-friendly measures should be improved.
“With the launch of the Breastfeeding Friendly Mall, we wish to encourage more public premises to create a breastfeeding friendly environment to provide all round support to mothers,” Ko said.
Ko added after the event that the government had been working with the culinary industry to launch measures to allow mothers to breastfeed inside restaurants.
UNICEF HK launched a “Say Yes to Breastfeeding” campaign in August 2015, in collaboration with the Food and Health Bureau and the Department of Health, to mobilise different sectors of the community to support mothers.
Over 60 corporations have pledged to become breastfeeding-friendly workplaces, whilst more than 60 restaurants in 17 districts in Hong Kong joined as breastfeeding-friendly public premises. Shopping malls were added recently.
“A little step by shopping malls can be a big leap for promoting breastfeeding. We sincerely believe that it can be done by every shopping mall in Hong Kong,” said Judy Chen, chairperson of UNICEF HK.