By day, Liz Thomas is a seasoned journalist, with experience in London and now in Hong Kong, where she heads the APAC Features, Investigations and Special Reports section of a global news organisation.
Once her three kids are in bed, she starts a night shift, working on It Tastes Like Love. The campaign partners with businesses, which commit to supporting breastfeeding on site; showcases beautiful nursing imagery; and provides a forum for sharing candid advice.
“The starting point was always to make sure that women who want to breastfeed are supported to do so however, wherever, whenever they need to,” says Thomas. “We’re inching towards that, especially with new discrimination laws protecting breastfeeding coming into effect this June.”
It’s a welcome move considering that as of 2016, UNICEF found that 40 percent of those who have breastfed in public in Hong Kong have experienced harassment.
Normalising breastfeeding is not just about ensuring mothers can nurse in public comfortably. Thomas sees it as a social justice issue that also has implications for infant health, the prevention of breast cancer and even environmental impact—breast milk is the original zero waste superfood.
In time for World Breastfeeding Week, we caught up with Thomas to learn more about her campaign and the state of breastfeeding in Hong Kong.
What inspired you to launch the #ItTastesLikeLove campaign?
When my eldest was born prematurely at Queen Mary in 2015, staff in the special care unit seemed more concerned about my modesty than helping me learn to breastfeed, fearing “male doctors might mind”. I found it baffling that they were urging new mothers to breastfeed while simultaneously creating barriers for us to do so.
A few months later I was berated for feeding uncovered in public. The woman berating me was actually wearing fewer clothes than me, and she only stopped ranting when I pointed that out. It really summed up the hypocrisy around breastfeeding and modesty.
The final straw was after my second son was born in 2018 when I met a woman struggling to nurse in public. It was hot, and her baby didn’t want to be covered. My boy was hungry, so I nursed uncovered nearby. She told me how much she appreciated it—that she’d been worried about people staring or harassing her. I realised while I couldn’t sit with every new nursing mum, I could try to drive change so that parents felt better supported and empowered.
How did becoming a mother change your opinions about breastfeeding?
My younger self would be shocked that I’ve nursed my children well into toddlerhood, breastfed while pregnant and tandem fed siblings. Like many of my generation, I was mainly formula fed and didn’t have much exposure to breastfeeding.
Now breastfeeding is one of the best parenting tools in my kit. Yes, children breastfeed when they are hungry, but they also do so when they need comfort, security, love or reassurance. While breast milk has been woefully under-researched, we know that the immunological and developmental benefits are remarkable. There’s no arbitrary age where this stops being true; it comes down to doing what’s best for you and your family.
Indeed, it's an issue when people equate advocating for breastfeeding rights and informed choices as a criticism of those who use formula. I dislike the phrases “breast is best” or “fed is best” because they are reductive and don’t reflect the nuance of personal experience.
See also: 5 Key Nutrients For A Healthy Pregnancy