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Is the right to breastfeeding at work still being denied?

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Big companies like Towngas and Facebook are proud to present their employees with facilities to support working mothers who need to breast-feed.

But companies with such facilities remain in minority.

A telephone survey conducted by Department of Health last year revealed that over 80% of the 2,000 respondents said a mother breastfeeding next to them is acceptable, yet many working mothers had to hide in conference rooms and server rooms to pump milk for their young children.

Some were even requested by employers to do it in the toilet, where the environment is unhygienic for preparing breast milk.  There are also incidents of working mothers being told not allowed to use the refrigerator to store breast milk.

To promote awareness on the issue UNICEF HK had collaborated with Food and Health Bureau and Department of Health to launch the ‘Say Yes to Breastfeeding’ campaign last August.

So far, over 60 corporations including Cathay Pacific Airways, The Bank of East Asia, Hang Lung Properties have pledged to be a breastfeeding friendly workplace.

A University of Hong Kong prospective study on the breastfeeding and weaning practices among local mothers points out the main reason for mothers to stop breastfeeding in the first three months after delivery is “returning to workplace”.

The impact of employers not supporting working mothers to breast feed is significant.

Almost nine out of 10 (86%) of mothers who gave birth in 2014 had initiated breastfeeding on discharge from hospital. However, only 24% of the babies born in the same year were breastfed at 6 months.

Image: Shutterstock

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