Let’s embrace a breastfeeding culture

Privilege Speech

On National Breastfeeding Awareness Month (August) and World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) 2013

By Sen. Pia S. Cayetano

31 July 2013

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I rise to bring up an important issue – infant and children’s health, a vital component of which is breastfeeding. Tomorrow, the first of August marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week. But in the Philippines, Republic Act No. 10028, otherwise known as the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act, provides for a month-long celebration.

 

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers” underscores the importance of a support system for the mother, not only within her family but also in her community.

 

There are five (5) Circles of Support, identified by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), that contribute to a mother’s positive breastfeeding experience.   The first circle is the “Family and Social Network” which is composed of the mother’s immediate support system.  This includes a woman’s husband, partner, family, and friends. The second circle is the “Healthcare Systems” which provide not only pre- and postnatal care, but also counseling for mothers before and after childbirth. The third circle is “Workplace and Employment” because support from the workplace is vital and necessary for employed women to succeed in breastfeeding as they transition back into work.  The fourth circle is “Government and Legislation”.  As the government, our role is to guarantee adequate and responsive legislation that prevent “aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes” and to ensure protection and support for breastfeeding mothers.  The fifth circle is “Response to Crisis or Emergency” which involves special planning in order to properly care for the breastfeeding mother and her baby such as in times of natural disasters, family problems such as separation of husband and wife, or critical illness of the mother or child. [1]

 

I am happy to note and report that by way of legislation, through Executive Order No. 51 [2] and Republic Act 10028 [3] including its  implanting rules and guidelines, we have addressed all five (5) by:

 

1. Ensuring information is available;

2. Prohibiting the advertisement, promotion, and sponsorship or marketing of infant formula for infants 0-6 months while regulating the advertisement, promotion, and sponsorship or marketing of infant formula for those above 6 months; and

3. Requiring that a breastfeeding environment is created in the workplace and in crisis situations.

 

But let me point out areas which still require attention:

 

1. Strict enforcement of the law against the marketing of milk formula

 

Executive Order No. 51 or the “National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Other Related Products and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) mandate a total ban on the advertisement, promotion, and sponsorship or marketing of infant formula for infants 0-6 months while those products intended for above 6 months should be regulated by the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) chaired by the Secretary of Health.

 

Thus, the law and its implementing guidelines are spelled out for us. No advertisement, no promotion, and no marketing of infant formula intended for infants 0-6 months of age.

 

Why is this important?

 

Breastfeeding within the first few hours and days of life of an infant are crucial. It sets the correct environment for continued breastfeeding.

 

Delayed onset of breastfeeding or interrupted breastfeeding due to the introduction of milk formula prevents a mother from establishing her milk supply.

 

Again, I cannot overemphasize how important breastfeeding is for both the infant and the mother.   WHO emphasizes that early initiation of breastfeeding, within an hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality.  Exclusive breastfeeding for six months protects the infant from gastrointestinal infections.  The risk of mortality due to diarrhea and other infections can increase in infants who are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.  Breast milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness, and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.  Breastfeeding likewise contributes to the health and well-being of mothers as it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.  [4]

 

Knowing all these,  why  wouldn’t  a mother breastfeed?

 

There are a number of reasons.

 

Mothers are vulnerable and will do whatever is needed for their baby.  Thus, if a health worker tells a mother that she does not have milk and that she must use infant formula or her baby will starve, many mothers will obey this out of fear.  That is why the laws mandate that health care institutions, workers, and personnel encourage and support breastfeeding for mothers and do not initiate the use of formula milk.

 

Sadly, there are still health care providers who violate the laws on breastfeeding and who continue to push the use of milk formula with new mothers instead of encouraging and teaching them how to breastfeed. I continue to receive reports of this nature.   And thus, I call on the Department of Health (DOH) to look into these illegal practices. I likewise call on various medical associations such as the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), and the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and their members, to work closely with the DOH in ensuring that those called to educate and support a breastfeeding mother are not the ones being used by milk formula companies to push their products.

 

2. Suitability of the workplace environment for breastfeeding

 

It has been 3 years since RA 10028 was passed, and 2 years since its Implementing Rules and Regulations were approved. The law and the IRR mandate the establishment of lactation stations in all public places and work places. I still receive complaints from pregnant and breastfeeding mothers that their offices are non-compliant and although I am happy to see breastfeeding/lactation station in public places like malls and some airports, there are still many places that have not complied.

 

I take this opportunity to call on all those concerned to make sure that you embrace the breastfeeding culture and provide the necessary environment to allow a mother to continue expressing her milk while she’s away from home.

 

Mr. President, as we celebrate Breastfeeding Awareness Month and World Breastfeeding Week, let us keep in mind that the support we give mothers in the early stages of nurturing their infants essentially translates to support for the healthy upbringing of their children.   Thank you very much.

 

End Notes:

[1] World Breastfeeding Week 2013. Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers. http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

[2] The National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Other Related Products

[3] Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 [4] World Health Organization http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs342/en/

 

Photo: Sen. Pia Cayetano says five circles of support – involving the family, the healthcare system, the workplace, government, and the community’s response system to disasters and emergencies – are needed to foster a breastfeeding culture.

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