Southern Daily: 9 out of 10 new mothers don't have enough breast milk

Mommy's stressed and on a diet

This is a translation of an article that appeared in the Southern Daily (南方日报) which is the Guangdong Province Party newspaper, sister to the more lively and commercial Southern Metropolis Daily and part of the hydra-like Southern Media Group.

The translation is by occasional Danwei contributor Xiao Mo.

9 out of 10 new mothers don't have enough breast milk

Original article by Sun Xiaosu; translated by Xiao Mo

An obstetrics and gynecology expert explained to this reporter that some women born after the 1980s cannot produce enough breast milk to feed their babies because of dieting to look slim, which has caused malnutrition. They're also afraid to ruin their figures by breast feeding, which has prevented their natural lactation reflexes.

Many babies are only breast-fed for up to four months.

Everyone knows that a child younger than six months mainly relies on the nutrition of milk, and breast milk is the best choice.

Ms Li, who works in TV, is very confused at the moment. She says that she only has enough milk to give her two month old "a snack."

"I know that it's best for babies to be breast fed after they are born, but after trying lots of different methods I still can't squeeze a lot out," says Xiao Wang who works in administration at a state-owned bank. She is quite distressed and eats carp and old chicken soup ('鲫鱼汤、老母鸡汤') at almost every meal, because they help to "produce milk" ('发奶'). But by the time her baby reached three months, her milk flow ceased completely.

Many women spend money asking experts to massage their breasts after child birth. They also buy different kinds of medicine which supposedly "induce milk," but ultimately the effect of this is minimal.

Chen Guojin, head of the obstetrics and gynecology department of the Guangzhou Medical College Number Three Hospital, tells this reporter that nowadays fewer and fewer women breastfeed their babies. Many babies in Guangzhou Province do not get breastfed after a few months, and 20-30% of women stop lactating after two months.

Zhang Yujie from the Number One People's Hospital in Guangzhou tells this reporter that modern women try everything to eat nothing in order to lose weight, because they want to "look beautiful" - this is the main reason for the deficiency in breast-feeders in our country.   

Zhang Yujie said that many of the pregnant women born after the 1980s are only children—very spoilt. Young mothers born after the 80s are afraid of hard work, and don't want to zuoyue zi (坐月子) [being confined/immobile for a period of time after childbirth]. Grandparents from both sides treat both the mother and the baby like little treasures.

In order to procure a good figure, some young mothers use figure-shaping bras. This will cause fibers to block up that will also affect lactation.

Apart from this, when women are in labor they choose to have a caesarean section. Women who have cesarian section births have less breast milk than women who give birth naturally.

The pressures of the mothers' lifestyles can also obstruct lactation. This journalist saw a nurse at the Guangzhou Medical College trying to convince a Ms Liu to breast feed, but in the end Ms Liu still persisted in feeding her newly born milk powder.

Zhang Yujie says that the phenomenon of not having enough breast milk is very common aomgst the post-natal women that she knows. "Most of the women have no more breast milk left after half a year, and some 20-30% of women who have given birth don't even lactate after the child reaches the age of one month. The ones who can persist to one year are few."

"Pressure from my danwei [work unit / company] and from life—we have to support a house and a child, this is why after two months I stopped breast feeding and switched to milk powder," says Xiao Liu, who has worked at a state-owned enterprise for three years, to this reporter. If she were to ask for time off her salary would be cut by 30%, and she would also lose her bonus. Just over one thousand yuan would not be enough to maintain her living costs. Because of this, Ms Liu had to change to milk powder.

"In fact the majority of women should be able to satisfy the breast-feeding needs of their babies according to the 'lactation stimulation reflex'" according to Wang Xiaoyi from the Love Baby ('爱婴') section of the Guangzhou Medical College Number Three Hospital. Wang also said that hospitals abroad are extremely careful about establishing the lactation reflex in post-natal women.

After the child is born, the doctor immediately asks the mother to start breast feeding. After the lactation reflex has been formed, breast milk will become increasingly plentiful. It can also strengthen uterine contraction, and reduce postpartum hemorrhages.

UNESCO encourages breast feeding for two years, but there is a big gap between the current situation in China and the advice of the UN. In China there is a somewhat long-standing misunderstanding, which is that after childbirth women are too tired to breast feed straight away. Experts have said that breast milk is the most nutritious food and raises immunoglobulin in babies, helping them fight against illness. Although feeding babies milk powder will induce faster growth, premature contact with different proteins such as in cows milk will have a negative effect on their immunity, and their physical constitution will be weaker than babies who have been breast-fed.

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There are currently 5 Comments for Southern Daily: 9 out of 10 new mothers don't have enough breast milk.

Comments on Southern Daily: 9 out of 10 new mothers don't have enough breast milk

i had my baby with a cesarean section in the midst of creating a new business and worked well over 12 hours a day -- yet i managed to breastfeed for almost 3 years and i'm convinced that i have given her advantages she wouldn't otherwise have.

but i had to think about this and make the effort. a few months before my baby was born, i did my research and was lucky enough to contact la leche league, where i got a wealth of information and assistance.

some quick points:

1. it is extremely rare for a woman to not have enough milk. milk is produced on a supply and demand basis -- the more a baby suckles, the more milk is produced. adhering to a nursing schedule, a tactic too-often suggested by doctors, usually leads to diminished production.

in other words, you don't need medicine or massages or anything else. just let your baby nurse as much as he/she wants to.

2. nursing facilitates weight loss as the calories required are immense -- if I remember correctly, more than 500 extra calories a day.

nursing helps you lose weight faster.

3. breasts do not suffer long-term shape changes as a result of nursing.

4. nursing babies are more 'portable' than bottle-fed ones. grab a change of clothes, maybe diapers, and you're off. no need to worry about bottles.

if the benefits to one's child is not enough to prompt someone to breastfeed, i don't know what is. human milk is obviously perfect for humans and has ingredients and antibodies in proportions that maximize the potential of body and brain/mind, and protect against disease. no artificially fortified milk, promoted by the milk industry, from other animals can compare.

i despise widespread misinformation and ignorance that leads so many women to failure. but it doesn't have to be that way.

i strongly urge parents who want the very best for their children to explore and contact la leche league which is the world authority on breastfeeding and is adviser to the world health organization (WHO) and UNICEF. LLL has branches worldwide and helps on many levels from education to practical on-the-spot emergency advice. there are branches in china which work in both chinese and english. you can find links to these local organizations here.

lastly, i think a woman who has given birth and is satisfying, nourishing and protecting her baby by using her body in this way is very beautiful, indeed.

Many women spend money asking experts to massage their breasts after child birth.

how does one get into this business as an "expert"?

What a terribly, terribly confused article. Having just been through the process of the milk "coming in" with our own newborn, I can attest to the article's confusion being absolutely (and very sadly) commonplace amongst the Chinese women in the pre-natal classes we attended here in Beijing.

Nature is utterly focused on the future, and doesn't give a damn about the past --- which is why even extremely malnourished women can produce enough milk to keep their babies alive. So this is nothing whatsoever to do with diet or clothing.

The two Chinese newborns to the left of us, and the one to the right, were immediately fed from the bottle the day they were born. Ours, of course, was perfectly happy with a very meager "flow" until Mummy's milk came in for real around Day 3.

Another way of telling that story is that the two mothers on our left and the one on our right pretty much completely screwed up their milk production from Day 1 -- and when their milk did come in they had their breasts punched, pulled, and "massaged" into rock-solid masses of blocked ducts immediately, while still continuing to bottle-supplement baby while telling themselves they were "breastfeeding".

Yay. Yet another "win" for TCM.

What we need is less children to breast feed! The world not in short supply of drinkable water because of over-population!

Thanks for posting this. I was wondering why breastfeeding wasn't popular in China.

Breastfeeding actually helps you lose your baby weight. I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes a lot sooner than my non-breast feeding counterparts. It also creates a different sort of bond between mother and child.

Is there maternity leave in China? or is it dependent on the employer?

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