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The head of Taipei’s health promotion division says a new regulation on mothers breastfeeding in public is an enhancement of women’s rights

Taipei protects mothers’ right to breastfeed

March 18 2010

TAIPEI (UCAN) -- Catholic healthcare workers and mothers of newborns have welcomed a new regulation that protects a woman's right to breastfeed her baby in public.

The regulation prohibits any person preventing mothers from breastfeeding babies in any public area.

Government offices, public venues and most shopping malls must also set up nursing rooms.

Anyone who does not comply with the law will be subject to a fine of NT$5,000-$30,000 (US$157-943).

Catholic hospitals have long promoted breastfeeding and have welcomed the measures.

The law, proposed in 2005, will finally come into force in Taipei on April 1, said Yu Li-hui, head of the health promotion division of Taipei city council.

"This is the first law of its kind in Taiwan. It not only follows the world trend but also symbolizes the enhancement of women's rights," Yu told UCA News.

Similar territory-wide regulations were drafted in January and are expected to be introduced across Taiwan.

Mothers of newborns at St. Joseph Hospital in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, are looking forward to seeing their rights' protected.

Among them, a 29-year-old woman with the family name Huang told UCA News she had not given any thought to the issue in the past. She changed her mind, however, after her first baby was born and now approves of the protection.

Her friends have brought her a breastfeeding blanket to shade her breasts and to keep the baby warm, she said.

Lin Ai-chen, director of the hospital's nursing department, told UCA News that Catholic hospitals in Taiwan have always promoted breastfeeding as something natural and God-given. They would be happy to see a territory-wide regulation implemented soon, she said.

In Taipei, Yu stressed that the city regulation not only requires public venues to provide nursing rooms but also protect the rights of mothers to breastfeed their babies anywhere they need.

The rate of breastfeeding has dropped since the 1970s when TV commercials created a misconception of healthier babies with formula milk. Breastfeeding draws strange stares from passersby, making it seem that this is not a norm in Chinese society, said Yu.

But Chinese mothers have breastfed their babies publicly in the 1960s when breastfeeding was common.

The practice has been encouraged since 1980s and now more than 90 percent of mothers breastfeed their newborns in hospitals, with two Christian hospitals among the top five.

Some public amenities are still not welcoming and consign breastfeeding mothers to storerooms, washrooms or other closed areas. "Some places even expel these mothers," Yu said.

TA09157/1593 March 18, 2010 44 EM-lines (411 words)

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