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Feature: Chinese working moms face breastfeeding dilemma

By Guo Ying (Xinhua)

10:27, June 01, 2013

BEIJING, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Being a breastfeeding mom and a career woman at the same time is no easy task for Fu Xiaoli.

Fu, an employee of the Tianjin Post Office, has managed to breastfeed her daughter Xiaoxiao for 15 months. After returning to work when Xiaoxiao was just four months old, she decided that the only option was to collect her breast milk during her work hours.

"At the beginning, I was under great pressure, as I was afraid that working would affect the quality and quantity of my milk," Fu said.

"I used to pump milk in the bathroom, which was very inconvenient. I felt guilty for spending such a long time there each day," Fu said.

Fu later found a storage room where she could get some privacy to use her breast pump. Although she sometimes is too busy at work to pump milk, she tries to do it as much as she can.

However, not all babies in China are as lucky as Xiaoxiao. According to official statistics, only 30 percent of Chinese mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months, much lower than the government's targeted goal of 50 percent.

According to the International Labor Organization, returning to work is a major reason for women to stop breastfeeding. Many career women in China complain of a lack of workplace support for breastfeeding and pressure from heavy workloads.

"Although my colleagues are well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, it is a pity that they are forced to stop because of our tight work schedule. A female doctor, for instance, can't stop half way through surgery to pump milk. And the real problem is that if the women don't pump enough, their milk production starts to decrease," said Yang Xiaoping, a nurse at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital.

In recent years, more people have become aware of the dilemma that working mothers face, and as a result, online support groups and parenting forums have become a popular online retreat. Some mothers are determined to make their voices heard.

Li Zhi works at a state-owned enterprise in Beijing. She has made a difference by approaching her manager and convincing him to provide a special breastfeeding room at their company.

"I told him that setting up a breastfeeding room would help promote our corporate culture and give the staff a more considerate image of their boss," Li said.

Ivy Makelin is the leader of the China branch of the La Leche League, an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping breastfeeding mothers by providing information and mother-to-mother support.

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