China has an ex­treme short­age of pro­fes­sional con­sul­tants, and many moth­ers are grasp­ing at phony so­lu­tions that might put them at higher risk.”

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China -

Although China has seen greater aware­ness of the ben­e­fits of breast­feed­ing in re­cent years, the coun­try still lacks qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als and sup­port staff mem­bers.

Now, to meet the rise in de­mand, au­thor­i­ties are for­mu­lat­ing guide­lines to pro­vide train­ing pro­grams and fa­vor­able poli­cies.

Ex­perts say breast­feed­ing is highly ben­e­fi­cial, noting that mother’s milk pro­motes sen­sory and cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment and pro­tects in­fants against in­fec­tious and chronic dis­eases. In ad­di­tion, ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing re­duces in­fant mor­tal­ity by boost­ing im­mu­nity to com­mon child­hood ill­nesses such as acute di­ar­rhea and pneu­mo­nia, and also pro­motes rapid re­cov­ery.

The re­cruit­ment and train­ing of a greater num­ber of sup­port staff mem­bers is de­signed to pre­vent new moth­ers from fall­ing prey to a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses and com­mon prob­lems that have arisen as a re­sult of the short­fall in qual­i­fied post­na­tal prac­ti­tion­ers.

“If there is one thing that would pre­vent me from hav­ing an­other baby, it would be the hor­ri­ble me­mory of breast­feed­ing for eight months af­ter giv­ing birth,” said Lu Lu, whose son will be 3 in Au­gust.

The boy was born pre­ma­turely at 35 weeks, so he was sent to the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit for spe­cial treat­ment im­me­di­ately af­ter birth. Un­for­tu­nately for Lu, the lack of early skinto-skin con­tact be­tween mother and child re­sulted in her mam­mary glands mal­func­tion­ing and fail­ing to pro­duce enough milk.

Health risks

The day af­ter she gave birth, Lu’s breasts be­came swollen and ten­der.

“A TCM (tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine) doc­tor placed scald­ing hot tow­els on my breasts, say­ing it was a com­mon way of treat­ing the con­di­tion, which usu­ally oc­curs in the first days af­ter de­liv­ery when the mam­mary glands be­gin to work,” the 33-yearold re­called. Lu knew lit­tle about health mat­ters, so she didn’t ob­ject.

How­ever, two days later, the pain in her breasts in­ten­si­fied and she re­al­ized that the treat­ment was mak­ing her con­di­tion worse.

In response, Lu’s mother in­tro­duced her to a re­tired doc­tor who was well-known for giv­ing neona­tal nurs­ing lec­tures in Bei­jing.

“She gave me a breast mas­sage, which is said to be very use­ful,” Lu said. “But my breasts soon be­came as hard as rocks and I also de­vel­oped a fever af­ter the treat­ment.”

It wasn’t un­til Lu at­tended the Haid­ian Ma­ter­nal and Child Health Hos­pi­tal in Bei­jing, which houses the coun­try’s lead­ing breast surgery clinic, that she was di­ag­nosed with se­vere per­a­cute mas­ti­tis — sud­den on­set, se­vere in­flam­ma­tion of the breast — which may have partly been a re­sult of the in­ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ments she had un­der­gone. The con­di­tion, which can cause fever, acute sore­ness and even ab­scesses, was so se­ri­ous that she had to be hos­pi­tal­ized.

“Dur­ing preg­nancy, I con­ducted lots of re­search on de­liv­ery and in­fant nurs­ing, but not on breast­feed­ing,” Lu said. “It hap­pened so un­ex­pect­edly; I thought breast­feed­ing was in­stinc­tive and most moth­ers would not have prob­lems feed­ing their baby.”

Dur­ing the eight months Lu breast­fed her son, the prob­lem re­curred about 10 times.

“All the suf­fer­ing I en­dured re­sulted in other prob­lems, such as de­pres­sion, which, in turn, made breast­feed­ing much more dif­fi­cult and a very un­happy ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

In March, Zhu Dan, a well-known TV anchor, used her Sina Weibo ac­count to re­late sim­i­lar prob­lems she had while breast­feed­ing.

She also com­plained about the short­age of qual­i­fied breast­feed­ing con­sul­tants, and urged women to share the con­tact de­tails of con­sul­tants who had treated them. Within a day, the post had re­ceived more than 3,000 replies.

Com­mon prob­lems

Ac­cord­ing to Wang Shicui, a self­styled breast­feed­ing con­sul­tant in Bei­jing, many new moth­ers ex­pe­ri­ence sim­i­lar prob­lems.

“Not every mother will en­counter se­vere con­di­tions such as mas­ti­tis, but nearly all will have com­mon breast­feed­ing chal­lenges, rang­ing from low milk sup­ply or en­gorge­ment (swollen breasts) to an im­paired milk ejec­tion re­flex or the baby re­fus­ing to breast­feed. That’s why our ser­vice is so pop­u­lar.”

Wang has no med­i­cal train­ing; in­stead she gained ex­pe­ri­ence through years of prac­tice, and has be­come pro­fi­cient at help­ing new moth­ers pro­duce suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of milk and re­liev­ing mam­mary duct block­age through mas­sage. De­spite her lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions, co-founder of the Home­base for Breast­feed­ing Moth­ers Wang’s meth­ods have of­ten been suc­cess­ful and she al­ways has a steady stream of pa­tients.

“In our so­cial cir­cle, cer­tifi­cates mean noth­ing but rep­u­ta­tion,” she said, adding that most of her clients are in­tro­duced by women who have ben­e­fited from her ser­vices.

Her door-to-door ser­vice costs 500 yuan ($78) for a two-hour ses­sion, ex­clud­ing the trans­porta­tion fee. It’s a prof­itable busi­ness, and in the past six years, Wang’s con­sul­ta­tions and ap­pren­tice train­ing pro­gram have en­abled her to buy two large apart­ments in Bei­jing.

Dong Mingzhe,

‘Phony so­lu­tions’

While Wang is well-re­spected, some un­qual­i­fied prac­ti­tion­ers may be en­dan­ger­ing their clients, ac­cord­ing to many ob­servers.

“China has an ex­treme short­age of pro­fes­sional con­sul­tants, and many moth­ers are grasp­ing at phony so­lu­tions that might put them at higher risk,” said Dong Mingzhu, the mother of twin girls, who co-founded the Home­base for Breast­feed­ing Moth­ers, one of China’s big­gest in­ter­net plat­forms for the dis­sem­i­na­tion of knowl­edge about mother and baby care.

Shortly af­ter giv­ing birth, Dong re­al­ized she had prob­lems pro­duc-

Li shows a class how to use a breast­feed­ing pump.

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