Breastfeeding is part of the fundamental human rights for both the mother and the baby: the baby has the rights to be breastfed; the mother has the rights to breastfeed.
A child’s right to be breastfed
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) protects every child’s rights to survival and development (Article 6), as well as to the highest attainable standard of health (Article 24).
One must eat in order to survive and to grow healthily. Breastfeeding has been proven to diminish infant and child mortality, disease and malnutrition. Breast milk is the best source of nutrients and many health factors for children; breastfeeding also creates good bonding between parents and the child which is beneficial to the mental development of the child (See benefits of breastfeeding ).
In addition, children are prone to
numerous potential health risks if not being breastfed. According to WHO’s recommendation, children should be exclusively breastfed for six months, and with the introduction of appropriate complementary foods, continue breastfeeding to two years or beyond. There are very few medical reasons for not breastfeeding.
As stated in Article 24 of the CRC, State Parties must ensure that parents and children are informed and educated about the basic knowledge of child health, including the advantages of breastfeeding. They are also entitled to breastfeeding support provided by the state.
The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in making decisions that may affect children. All adults with responsibilities for the child should do what is best for him or her (Article 3, CRC). Mothers are to be made well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of formula feeding before deciding on the mode of feeding for their child. It is the policy makers’ responsibility to protect and support women’s right to breastfeed, so that the child’s right to be breastfed is also protected, but all mothers, regardless of the feeding method, should receive the feeding support they need.
The woman’s rights to breastfeed
It is the woman’s right to breastfeed. Policy makers should remove hurdles to breastfeeding by making appropriate policies. Such policies should be made implementable by the allocation of appropriate resources.
In Hong Kong, despite cultural controversies in breastfeeding in public, it is legal to do so. Mothers may consider using a scarf or nursing cover while breastfeeding in public. Besides, there are increasing public nursing facilities which a mother may use when feeding her baby.