Promotion of Breastfeeding in China

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fay Mitchell-Brown, MSN
School of Nursing, California State University-Chico, Chico, CA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will recognize Chinese cultural practices and its influences on breastfeeding

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify the efforts introduced to increase breast feeding rate in China


  The purpose of this presentation is provide information on cultural barriers to breast feeding success and efforts introduced to increase breast feeding in China.  


Unfortunately, breastfeeding rates in China fell in the 1970’s reaching their lowest point in the 1980’s.  To alleviate the problem, many efforts were introduced to increase breastfeeding, including the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). This is a global initiative developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to recognize hospitals that promote breastfeeding, and to give mothers the skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding.  The 2010 national breastfeeding goal for China is 85%; the current breastfeeding rate is 70% (Xu, 2009).

Successful initiation and continuation of breastfeeding is strongly influenced by Chinese cultural practices. There are over 55 different ethnic groups in China with diverse traditional perceptions, some of which are in conflict with best practices to support breastfeeding.  Some of the conflicts are perceptions that breast milk is insufficient, early introduction of complementary food, and mothers assuming the sick role after delivery. These perceptions have a strong influence on breast feeding success.   This presentation will focus on the maternal child practices and cultural norms I witnessed during my recent travel to China and their influence on the promotion of breast feeding.  During this professional delegation, I met with health care professionals at the Haidan Women’s and Health Center in Beijing and spoke on the benefits of breastfeeding, emphasizing and encouraging the practice of the BFHI’s tens steps as outlined by the WHO.


This initiated dialogue on the topic and encouraged an exchange of information on current breastfeeding practices and trends in China.


Breastfeeding promotion requires the commitment and support from health care professional globally in order to promote healthier lives for infants.