Boom in births, breastfeeding resurgence lead to unregulated masseuses

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/3 19:03:39

A breastfeeding masseuse performs a massage for a customer in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: VCG

After Chen Fang (pseudonym), a 30-year-old woman in Shanghai, gave birth to her baby 10 days ago, her breast started to become sore and her milk ducts were clogged. Her maternity matron introduced her to a breastfeeding masseuse, who promised her that her milk will flow after regular breast massages.

After three such massages, a lump started to form in her right breast. She contacted the masseuse, who gave her a fourth massage, but it gave her breast pain, swelling and redness. Zheng had to go to the hospital and was diagnosed with breast inflammations caused by improper massage skills.

Breastfeeding masseuses are those who offer specialized breast massage to help get the milk flowing in mothers who are having breastfeeding difficulties. The breastfeeding massage market first became popular after the 2008 Chinese milk scandal, when tainted baby formula triggered panic among Chinese parents and prompted many mothers to turn to breastfeeding their newborn babies.

After all Chinese couples were allowed to have a second child in 2016, breast masseuses again were in high demand. Yet the unregulated industry has given rise to many problems.

Booming market

The breastfeeding massage industry is booming in China. Part of the reason is the lack of breastfeeding counseling in public hospitals due to the lack of medical resources. "Neither the obstetrics department or the pediatrics department will deal with breastfeeding issues, and as a result breastfeeding becomes a social problem," Wang Wenhua, a breast doctor in Beijing for over 30 years, told China Newsweek.

A senior masseuse teaches maternity matrons breast massage therapy in Beijing. Photo: VCG

Masseuses often provide the service at the client's home, and charge between 280 to 580 yuan ($41-84) for each session.

It's a lucrative business. "Compared with maternity matrons, the job of a breastfeeding masseuse is easier. There is no need to stay up late each night to accompany the mother," a breastfeeding masseuse surnamed Liu in Zibo, Shandong Province, told Qilu Evening News.

"Since couples were allowed to have a second child, the business has been in high demand. Each masseuse has two to three tasks each day," the masseuse said.

In first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the monthly salary for a breastfeeding masseuse can be as high as 20,000 yuan a month. This has attracted many people, mostly middle-aged women lacking formal education, to enter the business.

Lack of regulations

As a relatively new industry, the lack of training and accreditation of the profession has led to chaos in the market.

After Wang retired last year, she started to provide counseling on breastfeeding problems. She said almost every day, mothers go to her to ask for help due to bad massages they had gone through. Some had minor infections, and in the more severe cases, they have to undergo surgery.

Without a national standard or supervision, many maternity institutions and companies are rolling out their own training courses for people who want to enter the industry.

A maternity services company in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, for example, charges 4,980 yuan for a 12-day course in breastfeeding massage and promises to issue a nationally recognized certificate to trainees after the training ends, according to West China Metropolis Daily. Many trainees, however, found that the certificates provided by the company are not nationally recognized after they graduated from the program.
Newspaper headline: Breast massage scams


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