Thankfully, finally, this major parenting issue has actually worked its way onto the political agenda:
On December 4 2011, a new regulation was put forth by the Ministry of Health for public review. The regulation would prohibit formula companies from marketing in hospitals to parents of children less than six months of age. This regulation is one of the draft laws that could be approved during the current “Two Meetings” of China’s National People’s Congress. But whether the bill passes or not, enforcement, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, will be difficult to track.
China is wacky when it comes to baby formula. The 2008 Sanlu Tainted Milk Powder Scandal scaled to hysterical proportion specifically because advertising by foreign and domestic baby formula manufacturers had so successfully brainwashed Chinese into believing milk powder was the only possible way to healthily raise an infant. Without it, what were mothers to do?
This is yet another of those mysterious culture riddles I have failed to solve. After six years, I’ve never really heard the rationale laid out to me in any sort of eureka moment, like, oh, “I get it now.”
Protocol for mothers post-giving birth vary from the extreme to the more modern. On one end, I have heard of mothers immediately giving up their child to the grandmother, and then basically going into seclusion for up to three months. Literally, the mother is supposed to lock herself in, not have any contact with the outside world, and just drink water and eat rice porridge for three months. Reasons? To rest, “get healthy,” and regain her pre-pregnancy body size.
For those who might also consider this practice a bit perplexing, I put it to you that this is not the least of the odd, institutionalized behaviors surrounding childbirth:
Chinese women are more likely to have caesarean births than any other nationality in the world (46% of births are c-section; Vietnam is second with 35%). Doctors and hospitals can make more money performing c-sections and they are much more predictable than natural births. Commonly, women undergo surgery, use the c-section as an excuse to not breastfeed and then hand the baby over to grandparents so they can continue living their lives.
But for many women, choosing breast milk over formula is a choice that influences every aspect of parenting.
Well, hopefully this is all about to change. As the lede reads:
A peaceful parental counter-movement is growing that is beginning to question the popular reliance in China on medically assisted births and infant formula, as well as the Tiger Mom ethos that puts children through the educational grinder.
Check out the Danwei article, it’s a good read.