A Chinese policewoman is being hailed as a hero after taking it upon herself to breast-feed several infants who were separated from their mothers or orphaned by China's devastating earthquake. Officer Jiang Xiaojuan, 29, the mother of a 6-month-old boy, responded to the call of duty and the instincts of motherhood when the magnitude 7.9 quake struck on May 12. "I am breast-feeding, so I can feed babies. I didn't think of it much," she said. "It is a mother's reaction, and a basic duty as a police officer to help."
The death toll in the earthquake jumped Thursday to more than 51,000, and more than 29,000 are missing, according to government figures. Thousands of children have been orphaned; many others have mothers who simply can't feed them."
At one point, Jiang was feeding nine babies. "Some of the moms were injured, their fathers were dead. Five of them were orphans. They've gone away to an orphanage now," she said.
She still feeds two babies, including Zhao Lyuyang, son of a woman who survived the quake but whose breast milk stopped flowing because of the traumatic conditions. "We walked out of the mountains for a long time. I hadn't eaten in days when I got here and my milk was not enough," said that mother, Zhao Zong Jun. "She saved my baby. I thank her so much, I can't express how I feel."
Liu Rong, another mother whose breast milk stopped in the trauma, was awed by Jiang's kindness. "I am so touched because she has her own baby, but she fed the disaster babies first," Liu said. "If she hadn't fed my son he wouldn't have had enough to eat."
Jiang has became a celebrity, followed by local media and proclaimed on a newspaper front page as "China's Mother No. 1." She's embarrassed by the fuss. "I think what I did was normal," she said. "In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning."
There has been a huge outpouring of support from families who want to adopt babies orphaned by the quake. But that process takes time and there are mouths to feed.
Jiang misses her own son, who's being cared for through the emergency by in-laws in another town, but she is aware of the new connections she's made. "I feel about these kids I fed just like my own. I have a special feeling for them. They are babies in a disaster."
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