Every year, the world commemorates World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) on 1-7 August under the auspices of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA)[i]. On this occasion, Governments, civil society organizations (CSO), and the private sector celebrate WBW to raise sustained awareness on the importance of breastfeeding and the need to support, protect and promote it worldwide. The theme for WBW 2013 is “Breastfeeding Support: Close to the Mother.”
This year, the United Nations in the Philippines, represented by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) joins the rest of the world in commemorating WBW, and World Breastfeeding Month in August.
Breastfeeding is a natural way of providing complete nourishment to a newborn baby from the first hour of birth to six months, which is continued with adequate and nutritious complementary feeding up to the age of two years and beyond. Breastmilk also enhances optimal brain development, promotes maternal and infant bonding, and has immune properties that protect babies and young children from diseases.
“On the basis of these inherent benefits”, says Dr. Abdul Alim, UNICEF Philippines Representative, A.I., “UNICEF upholds and advocates breastfeeding as a cost-effective strategy for survival, growth, development and protection of infants and young children from birth up to two years.”
This year, WBW seeks to:
Draw attention to the importance of peer support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding.
Inform the public on the highly effective efforts to expand peer counseling programmes.
Encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to be trained to support mothers and babies.
Identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, for support even after giving birth.
Call on Governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps to improve duration and rates of exclusive breastfeeding.
Government has enacted the National Milk Code (Executive Order No. 51—National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Other Related Products) and its Revised Implementation Rules and Regulations in 1986, and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (Republic Act No. 10028) in 2010, which address the objectives of WBW 2013 in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, women’s participation in wage employment has increased over the years. However, women are likely to be trapped in vulnerable forms of employment. This poses a greater challenge for women to effectively balance their work and family life.
“With the fear of losing their only source of income, working women find it hard to continue exclusive breastfeeding even just until their babies reach six months; some are forced to give up exclusive breastfeeding altogether,” says Lawrence Jeff Johnson, ILO Philippines Director.
“The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to a baby especially in the first six months are irreplaceable. The positive effects for working women in terms of productivity, staff continuity and loyalty, reduced absenteeism, lower healthcare and training costs are equally rewarding,” Johnson adds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Julie Hall, WHO Philippines Representative, observes that “the National Milk Code and related laws are among the best in the world, and have served as models for several countries. What is urgently required are resources and partnerships for their full implementation in workplaces and communities.”
According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the nutrition status of children under age of five years has not improved in the last 10 years in the Philippines. The ILO, UNICEF and WHO are, therefore, calling on the public and private sectors, including CSOs, to ensure that the National Milk Code and related laws are implemented and monitored across the country.