Motherly Love in Translation: Chinese Breastfeeding

The recent press event held to launch a new iPhone breastfeeding app, was an unusual one, to say the least. The audience at the Hong Kong Convention Centre was made up of proud mothers and their children and the atmosphere was lively. Instead of listening attentively to the speakers on stage, news photographers were focused on the adorable babies and toddlers in attendance.

This free app is the first one written in traditional Chinese and offers easily accessed advice and encouragement for breastfeeding mothers. It features dozens of frequently asked questions, links to relevant YouTube demonstrations, a discussion forum and a charity store link for purchasing modesty scarves.

For the Hong Kong Breastfeeding Mothers Association (HKBFMA), founded in 1996, the app is the latest of many public education and promotion efforts, that aim to create a more mother-friendly environment.

Vivian Leung, one of HKBFMA's founders and chairwomen, is tremendously grateful for the AWA’s ongoing financial support. She laments the huge marketing budgets of infant formula companies. “Those milk powder promotions are on in TV prime time, and in newspapers,” she says, adding that she believes discouraging breastfeeding is not ethical.

Leung views the choice not to breastfeed as the “loss of one of life’s most beautiful experiences”. The group urges new mothers to try breastfeeding as “we don’t want mothers to regret [not doing] it, or to fail.”

First time mothers are the organization’s primary target as they are most often the ones who have breastfeeding questions, according to Kelly Chan, another HKBFMA leader. Chan says that about half of the HKBFMA website’s visitors reach them through iPhones, so developing this app became a high priority for the organization. Next up will be an Android version of the app.

According to Ellen Fagan of the Charitable Donations Committee, HKBFMA has repeatedly been the recipient of the AWA’s awards because they fit admirably with our organization's charitable goals.

“Their mission is clear and worthy of our support, they use our funds responsibly and effectively, our small grants make a big difference to their operation and have a powerful impact on the organization, and on women and children across Hong Kong,” she says.

Fagan, who has conducted site visits of the organization as part of the AWA’s proposal vetting process, reports that the group “is run by dedicated women, many of whom juggle families and jobs, in addition to volunteering.” Their successful projects have included the production of an educational DVD, which was distributed to public and private health clinics and hospitals, as well as on YouTube. In addition, they have recruited mothers-to-be to become Breastfeeding Ambassadors to order to promote the activity and to help form support groups.