Kids Mums & Babies

Breastfeeding in Hong Kong

When it comes to breastfeeding, Hong Kong is a city of contradictions. LIZ THOMAS shares an update on the #Ittasteslikelove campaign and how the community is supporting nursing mums.

Tackling the taboo

Women here dress as they please and scantily clad models adorn billboards and shop windows. Yet, public nursing is still something of a taboo in Hong Kong. Government hospitals and maternal health centres extol the importance of breastfeeding, but nurses can often be more focused on ensuring “modesty” than guiding new mothers through the process. Breastfeeding in public is perfectly legal, but some 40 percent of mothers who’ve done so say they’ve experienced harassment. For all its modernity, there’s no escaping that Hong Kong clings on to outdated attitudes in some areas, which can be a shock for new arrivals – and new mothers.

#Ittasteslikelove was set up to tackle the fact that while breastfeeding is natural – the biological norm recommended by the World Health Organisation – some people have become so unused to seeing it that it makes them uncomfortable or even react with hostility. We’re working with the community to ensure parents feel happy nursing however, wherever and whenever they need to.

Mother and baby in Hong Kong
Photos: Rosalia Sempere Pico RSP Photography

Who’s getting involved?

Removing the stigma about public breastfeeding starts long before a mother leaves her front door. New parents need educated encouragement from friends, family and employers. They also need community support – there have been too many stories of women forced to nurse in toilets and storerooms or told to cover up or even leave.Cafes, bars and restaurants are frequented by different parts of society – a rare crossover of multiple worlds. That’s why #Ittasteslikelove is teaming up with businesses to ensure that breastfeeding is not just tolerated but actively supported. This in turn will stop people voicing their disapproval and perhaps lead them to reconsider their disapproval altogether.

So far, we have more than 100 places backing us. Gyms, salons and education centres have all got involved – read on to hear some of their thoughts about the campaign. Everyone involved is taking a stand against discrimination and pledging that their space is a safe space for those breastfeeding. The city’s malls have wonderful nursing rooms, but these are few and far between – far better if we could embolden women to meet their children’s needs as they need to, rather than forcing them into the shadows.

Finding other mums

There is a small but passionate community of breastfeeding mothers in the city. Hong Kong Breastfeeding has thousands of members on Facebook, providing a fountain of first-hand knowledge but also rallying to help mothers in need. Just recently, a mother hospitalised with COVID-19 posted a message asking for breast milk donations – within a few hours, enough had been offered to nurse her four-month-old for two weeks.

La Leche League HK holds regular meetings and provides outreach, while private lactation consultants such as Yvonne Heavyside are within easy reach.

#Ittasteslikelove takes a multi-pronged approach to normalising breastfeeding. Our Instagram focuses on beautiful nursing photography – we want mothers to celebrate and share this milestone, just as they do newborn and maternity shoots. Our vibrant Facebook page focuses on debate and discussion around breastfeeding. We’ve opened our blog up to women across Hong Kong, who are now sharing experiences from nursing premature babies to breastfeeding and the coronavirus.

The important thing is to build your village, despite the demands of 21st-century living. We believe encouraging the community will in turn embolden and empower parents, and ultimately change the conversation around breastfeeding.

Community Support

Ten restaurant, café and boutique owners explain why they’re backing the #Ittasteslikelove campaign.

Cafe 8

“Café 8 was an early adopter of events that promote breastfeeding within the community and it’s with a great a sense pride that we wholeheartedly support the great work of #Ittasteslikelove.”
– Surinder Kumar Punjya, Executive Director, The Nesbitt Centre

Maximal Concepts (Mott 32, Limewood and others)

“We absolutely support this campaign and want all nursing mothers to feel totally comfortable caring for their children in our restaurants. It’s such an important message to get across, and the stigma definitely needs to change in Hong Kong.”
– Malcolm Wood, Global Managing Director

PizzaExpress

“Family is one of our core values and it’s our goal to make sure everyone who dines at our restaurants feels loved and supported, especially mothers. We’re firm believers that mothers should be supported to breastfeed in public without any concern, and it’s our job and privilege to provide such an environment. ”
– Liam Colette, Managing Director International of PizzaExpress

Oolaa!

“We’re proud to be a recognised family restaurant, which is why it’s been important for us over 10 years to welcome families and help mothers feel comfortable if they breastfeed. The most natural thing is breastfeeding and mothers around the world should be able to feed their babies anytime and anywhere; this is why they will always be welcome.”
– Manon Pellis, Events Manager

Hemingway’s DB (Discovery Bay)

“Hemingway’s fully backs the campaign to normalise breastfeeding in society. Breastfeeding is the single most natural thing we as humans do, and the practice should never be shunned or frowned upon, only encouraged and the mothers supported!”
– Gary Stokes, Owner & Founder

Pret A Manger

“Breastfeeding is a very natural thing, and it shouldn’t be discriminated against in our society. Pret is very proud to be part of this campaign, and we fully support normalising breastfeeding in Hong Kong. We’re pleased to offer a safe, secure, comfortable and supportive environment for nursing mothers to feel free to breastfeed their children.
– Yumi Li, Commercial Director (Asia)

MANA! (Central, Sheung Wan, Wanchai)

“We’re proud to support the #Ittasteslikelove campaign to normalise breastfeeding. Mothers can relax at MANA! and know they are welcome and can dine or drink hassle-free.”
– Bobsy Gaia, Owner & Founder

Glow Spa

“We cater for nursing mothers as a matter of course; I regularly give up my office if mum needs privacy to pump or nurse, and, if they’re happy to nurse in public, our staff are mature and accommodating. Mums are always welcome if they’re in the city and need a place to go; they can feed or pump at Glow without hassle (or an appointment!)”
– Sioban Guilfoyle, Owner & Founder

Beef & Liberty (Central, Stanley, Hong Kong International Airport)

“We completely support the campaign. We welcome all nursing mothers and hope to provide an atmosphere that’s comfortable and relaxed where they can look after their children without being judged or hassled.
– Will Bray, Managing Director, Greater China Restaurant Company

Baumhaus (TST, Wanchai)

“Baumhaus supports the #Ittasteslikelove message to normalise breastfeeding. We can offer a butter or chocolate cookie to breastfeeding mums when they’re in the cafés in our centres.”
– Baumhaus Team

facebook.com/pg/Ittasteslikelovelovelove instagram.com/ittasteslikelove

This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.