Two years ago, the British medical journal the Lancet published a study arguing that higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding could be even more effective than improved sanitation at preventing “a large proportion of child deaths and disease” in developing countries. It’s unclear whether Chinese officials ever saw that research, but they seem to have arrived at the same conclusions.

This past week, Beijing announced that it was considering a ban on infant milk formula advertising in hopes of changing the country’s dire nursing statistics. In 2014, fewer than 16 percent of urban Chinese women exclusively breastfed their babies through the World Health Organization’s recommended period of six months. In rural China, the rates were higher — around 30 percent. But in both cases, they continue to decline.

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