Breastfeeding survey 2021 issued

The Department of Health today released the report of Breastfeeding Survey 2021 which had assessed breastfeeding rates in the first year of life of babies born in Hong Kong in 2020.   In comparison with the birth cohort in 2018, the survey revealed that the exclusive breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge as well as at the first, second, fourth and sixth months of age for the birth cohort in 2020 had dropped by around two to four percentage points.   To monitor local breastfeeding trends, data was collected from public and private birthing hospitals as well as the department’s maternal and child health centres (MCHCs). According to the reports from all hospitals with maternity units, the ever breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge of babies born in 2020 were 86.8% and 18.9%.   Meanwhile, breastfeeding surveys conducted at the MCHCs showed that for babies born in 2020, the breastfeeding rates at the first, second, fourth, sixth and 12th months were 77.4%, 66.6%, 53.9%, 43.1% and 23.9%.   In addition, the exclusive breastfeeding rates at the first, second, fourth and sixth months were 28.8%, 28.1%, 25.6% and 22.2% in the MCHC data pool.   Commenting on the survey results, the department said: “The observed decline in breastfeeding rates in the 2021 survey is likely due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”   In view of the local epidemic situation, breastfeeding support services in birthing hospitals and MCHCs were substantially scaled down in 2020. Social support was also reduced due to social distancing measures, it explained.   However, the department noted that breastfeeding support services, including antenatal education, breastfeeding assessment and coaching, have fully resumed in the MCHCs since June. The Hospital Authority has also gradually restarted offering antenatal classes and education workshops on breastfeeding. Health education on breastfeeding has also been strengthened through online platforms.   The department will continue to strengthen professional assistance for breastfeeding in MCHCs and work with service providers to support breastfeeding families, the department added.

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