Original article feaured on China Daily USA.
The Ministry of Health has said it hopes to have half of China's mothers breastfeeding within eight years.
Currently, only about 30 percent of newborns younger than 6 months old are breast-fed exclusively on the Chinese mainland, a recent ministry survey showed.
Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. Optimal breastfeeding together with supplementary nourishment help prevent malnutrition and can save about 1 million children's lives worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
"The ministry will make great efforts to increase the rate to 50 percent by 2020 in the country, but that needs cooperation of all stakeholders, including hospitals, families, and communities," said Xu Xiaochao, a senior official with the maternal and children health and community health department under the ministry.
To achieve its goal, the ministry has introduced measures and policies to promote breastfeeding, like a mass-education campaign and regulations that cover baby-formula sales and promotion, she said at a media event Wednesday, the first day of World Breastfeeding Week this year.
Some maternity hospitals' medical workers with economic motives even promote baby formula to new moms, suggesting that it's richer in nutrients than breast milk, Xu said.
Wen Chunmei, program officer for the WHO's China office, said many countries worldwide have strict regulations that prohibit advertisement of baby formulas in an effort to encourage breastfeeding.
WHO has long actively promoted breastfeeding as the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, she noted.
Also, breastfeeding can benefit in term of health both the mother and the newborn, said Dai Yaohua, a professor with the Capital Institute of Pediatrics.
"It helps lower the mother's risk of breast cancer and the baby's risk of chronic diseases like diabetes while growing up," she said.
She urged new mothers to stick to breastfeeding and for society to create an environment that facilitates breastfeeding.
Huang Qun, an official with the China office of the International Labor Organization, said that major barriers of breastfeeding include low awareness, a lack of supporting facilities, and policies at public places, particularly at places of work.