New Internationalist

Breast must remain best


A Dumagat woman breastfeeds her six-month-old baby while waiting for relief goods.
Photo: Angelica Carballo, reproduced with permission.

The gains achieved by breastfeeding advocates in the Philippines may be wiped out as a proposed bill threatens to amend an existing law, hailed internationally, that supports breastfeeding in the country.

The Milk Code of the Philippines encourages mothers to breastfeed their babies from brith to 36 months.

According to Filipino lawyer Rita Jimeno, in an article on the Female Network, the code prohibits advertising practices that entice mothers to choose artificial milk products over their own breast milk.

But there are now proposals in Congress to reduce the Milk Code’s reach. Furthermore, the draft legislation lifts the restriction on donations of artificial milk products in emergency situations which could encourage mothers away from breastfeeding. Even during such difficult times, it has been proven that breast milk is a better choice.

In a tropical country like the Philippines torrential rains and heavy flooding are a daily occurrence during the rainy season. Calamity-stricken areas are sometimes difficult to reach because of heavy flooding and the supply of basic goods can be disrupted.

Breast milk has saved millions of babies caught up in disasters through the years.

In the far-flung community of Puray, Rizal, in the east of the Philippines, breast milk kept babies strong and healthy even as monsoon rains battered the remote area, and other parts of the country, earlier this month.

The community, explains Filipina journalist Angelica Carballo, in an article on Interaksyon.com, had been isolated from the main towns as a landslide blocked roads leading to Puray.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) congratulated the Philippine government earlier this month for improvements in breastfeeding rates in the country. Citing figures released by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), they said that exclusive breastfeeding rates in the Philippines have risen to 47 per cent in 2011 from 36 per cent in 2008.

‘The initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of delivery has increased from 32 percent in 2008 to 52 percent in 2011,’ according to their joint statement.

There’s still a lot of room for improvement in the area of exclusive breastfeeding which is encouraged by advocates for the first six months of a baby’s life as the sole source of nutrients. However, the government sponsored 2011 Family Health Survey showed that in some areas of the Philippines, exclusive breastfeeding rates are as low as 27 per cent.

WHO representative in the Philippines, Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, says that the recent increase in breastfeeding rates puts the country a step closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals on child health: ‘Breastfeeding can save the lives of both mothers and babies, this is one of the important interventions to reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.’

Various sectors such as non-government organizations, political leaders and the media are helping the government sustain the improvements in breastfeeding. However, all these gains are now at risk thanks to intense lobbying by formula milk manufacturers who are gaining ground in Congress.

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  1. #1 LIttle Survivors 29 Aug 12

    The marketing of formula milk in Asia by greedy companies is not new and they continue to get away with their actions, even though breastfeeding could save so many lives of young babies in developing nations because of the many health benefits breast milk provides over formula milk, plus breast milk is free! On this issue of health in the Philippines, Little Survivors International has started a petition on change.org asking the Philippines Government to pass the Reproductive Health Bill. If passed, this bill would prevent the thousands of illegal and unsafe abortions that occur in the country and the matenral deaths that result from this barbaric practice.

    The link to the petition is: http://www.change.org/en-AU/groups/littlesurvivorsinternational

    Please sign. Thank you!

  2. #2 KCM 29 Aug 12

    It's always down to the same thing isn't it? The health of babies and mother's versus disease-causing but money-making baby milks.

    Don't allow the Milk Code of the Philippines to be weakened! The end result is that fewer mothers will breastfeed and infant mortality and morbidity will rise.

  3. #3 Iris Gonzales 03 Sep 12

    @Little Survivors and KCM, thanks for your comments and words of encouragement. Yes, we are doing what we can here. Help us spread the word.

  4. #4 Curls 05 Nov 12

    As I sit here nursing my little one my heart burns to read of the conniving tactics of the formual companies.

    We are on the heels of a very bad storm in our area where families literally just one or two blocks up our street still do not have power. It never even occurred to me what a blessing it was until after the storm that because I was breastfeeding exclusively I didn't have to worry about making bottles, keeping them refrigerated or heating them.

    I cannot imagine what I would do in such a tropical climate as the Phillipines. It makes me shudder to think of mothers with babies cut off from power or access to formula for their children when the can easily have access to sustenance for their children through what their bodies naturally creates.

    Not to mention as the article touches upon the TREMENDOUS health benefits to baby and mother by breastfeeding. It is FREE and milk adapts to the unique needs of your baby. Please keep fighting the good fight to spread the word. We must take a stand to feed our babies as God and nature intended through breastfeeding.

  5. #5 kaelthas 16 Sep 13

    This law should be followed by all mothers not only in the Philippines but all around the world. Breast feeding is the best for babies because breast milk is very healthy for them, to get the nutrition they need for their body. For the baby to be healthy and away from sickness and malnutrition. [a href=’http://corporate-legal-services.weebly.com/’]Filipino Attorneys

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About the author

Iris Gonzales a New Internationalist contributor

Iris Cecilia Gonzales is a Filipino journalist and blogger. At present, she covers economic news for a Manila broadsheet, but she also writes other stories here and there. She has been blogging since 2004 on various issues including women and children and human rights. She is among the winners in the TH!NK 3 global blogging competition organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre.

You may email her at [email protected]

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