updated 5/11/2007 5:40:13 PM ET 2007-05-11T21:40:13

A Japanese proposal to urge mothers to breast-feed their babies and sing lullabies to children was scrapped after critics warned it was too intrusive, a news report said.

The proposal, which would also have recommended parents limit their children's television viewing and promote age-appropriate morals, was to have been announced Friday by an education reform panel named by the government.

But experts and some government officials said the measure was "beyond intrusive," and interfered in people's private lives, Kyodo News agency said Thursday, citing unnamed individuals close to the panel.

Japanese breastfeeding rates are much lower than those in other developed countries, according to various studies cited in a 2006 article in the International Breastfeeding Journal.

The comparative studies said in 2000 the full breastfeeding rate in Japan for infants aged 1 to 2 months was 44.8 percent compared to the U.S. rate of 54.7 percent at 1 month and and Sweden at 80.2 percent at 2 months.

Another study of infants aged 3 to 6 months in Nishinomiya City, Japan, found that 43.8 percent of infants were fed breast milk only. These breast-feeding rates still remain lower than the U.S. with 47 percent breastfed at 3 months.

Education reform has been a key party of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's agenda since he took office in September.

In December, Parliament passed a reform measure that called on schools to "to cultivate an attitude that respects tradition and culture, that loves the nation and home country."

The legislation reflected concerns voiced by Abe that Japan's long stretch of economic prosperity has eroded the morals and cooperative spirit of prewar Japanese.

Concerns have also been rife about Japan's falling birth rate. Earlier this month, the government said that Japan's child population has fallen to a record low since the end of World War II.

To encourage more couples to have children, Abe's government has adopted plans for increasing child care, promoting gender equality and encouraging companies to allow staff more time for family responsibilities.

But many opt to have few or no children because of the high cost of raising them and the persisting social expectations for women to quit their jobs after giving birth.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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