by Patrick Lozada
Cans of imported milk powder from Hong Kong, a proud mainlander posted a photo of the haul online.
Tensions are high among parents in Hong Kong as baby formula supplies run out in grocery stores all over the island. Since a series of scares around tainted milk, parents from mainland China have been flooding to Hong Kong and buying formula in bulk, believing it to be safer than what is being sold on the mainland. After pondering over restricting sales in January, the Hong Kong government finally decided to act during Spring Festival when they imposed an emergency two can limit.
In response, smugglers from the mainland have resorted to smuggling cans en masse back to the mainland. One Weibo user posted a picture of an enormous stash of 148 cans of formula she claimed she brought back from Hong Kong, drawing more attention to the activities of these smugglers on social media.
As much as people like this mother are may be being pilloried by the HK crowd and contributing to a growing disdain of mainlanders, I find it much harder to blame her than the electronics merchants who do a lot of the cross border smuggling. She just wants to feed her kids.
The real question should be – why aren’t these women breastfeeding? I talked to Rebecca Ruhlen, an East Asian anthropologist and lactation consultant who studies breastfeeding, and she explained that there is a tremendous pressure for many mothers to go out and work, often as migrant laborers. Furthermore, the bureaucratic nonsense that is hospitals in China effectively creates a system of “breastfeeding sabotage” that prevents women from nursing successfully. All this is bad for babies. The WHO estimates that breastfeeding could save the lives of 1.5 million children under five every year.
So less smuggling = more breastfeeding = healthier babies. Everyone wins.