Simultaneous breastfeeding for empowered mothers and communities
18 August 2019— More than 1,500 mothers simultaneously breastfed their kids in the annual Hakab Na or the Big Latch-On held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay as culmination of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Hakab Na is considered the biggest gathering of breastfeeding moms in the Philippines since its inception in 2013.
For this year, Hakab na adopts the global theme “Empower parents, enable breastfeeding” to remind everyone that every sector of the society must do its part in making an environment that will let mothers feel safe to breastfeed. Ruth, one of the first time attendees, said that the event means a lot to her. “Binebreastfeed ko ang baby ko (for 5 months) now at nakakatuwa na makakakilala rin ng ibang mommies na marami na ring experience. Kasama ko ang nanay ko dito, nakakatuwa na hindi niya ako pinigilan. Full support siya. (I’m breastfeeding my baby for five months now and it feels good to know other moms who have more experience (in breastfeeding). I am with my mom today and I’m just grateful that she supported my decision to be here. She gave me her full support.)”
In Kwentong Hakab Na, TV host-actress Daphne Oseña-Paez shared how she juggled work and breastfeeding since she’s working full-time in a broadcasting network. The support of her family, according to Paez, enabled her to sustain breastfeeding even during the times she thought she could not make it. Meanwhile, Myra Gazmin talked about how her husband made her breastfeeding journey a lot easier because of the unwavering support he has shown her, while working mom Erika Daluz recounted how her family and support groups buoyed her after she experienced shaming from other people because of her viral tandem feeding photo.
These moms’ experiences call for a stronger call to normalize breastfeeding by empowering not just the mothers but the people around them as well.
DOH and World Vision’s Efforts
The Philippines is among the countries that has already passed a number of laws that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. In 1986, Executive Order 51 or the Philippine Milk Code was signed into a law. This law aims to protect the right of a mother to breastfeed her child by regulating the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and other related products. Republic Act 7600 or the Rooming-in and Breastfeeding Act of 1992, on the other hand, mandates all health facilities to initiate breastfeeding in the first hour of a child’s life. It was furthered by Republic Act 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 and it protects the rights of working moms to continue breastfeeding even in the workplace.
It has been decades but the challenge of strong implementation remains. Rommel Fuerte, Executive Director of World Vision Development Foundation, remarked that the Philippines has good laws for infant and young child feeding, but more work needs to be done in proper implementation and effective monitoring. Fuerte then discussed World Vision’s partnership with the government in strengthening and monitoring the implementation of these laws through the Crowd-based Monitoring of Milk Code Compliance project, otherwise known as Mother-Baby Friendly Philippines. Fuerte encouraged everyone to use the MBFP website and mobile application to help the government in exposing and acting upon possible violations against breastfeeding laws.
“Let us all do our part in making the Philippines mother-baby friendly and the way to do that is to be aware of the laws and be vigilant of the violations around us,” Fuerte added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Calibo of the Department of Health-Disease Prevention and Control Bureau highlighted the significance of the recent passage of Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, saying that protecting breastfeeding in the Philippines should be holistic. “Kung titingnan natin, ito ay naglalayon na masolusyunan ang stunting o pagkabansot ng mga batang Pilipino. Kung tututukan ng lahat ng sektor ang kalusugan at nutrisyon ng mga nanay sa pagbubuntis pa lang at mga bata pagkapanganak pa lang, mababasawan ang batang hindi lumalaki ng maayos” (It aims to combat the problem of stunting among Filipino children. If all sectors will prioritize the health and nutrition of mothers right from pregnancy stage, we can reduce cases of stunting).
Results of the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) show that stunting prevalence remains high for children below five years old. Though exclusive breastfeeding among 0-5 months old significantly improved in a span of seven years, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding up until 6 months remains low.
“Marami sa mga pinagdadaanan ng isang nanay depends on how much we shape the nurturing environment that they have for them to breastfeed. Kailangan natin ng iba pang miyembro ng support groups. Sama sama tayong lahat, hindi lang DOH ang may responsibilidad nito kundi lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno and the whole of civil society. Sama-sama tayong lahat para sa matagumpay na pagpapasuso (A mother’s [breastfeeding] experience depends on how much we shape the nurturing environment for them to breastfeed. We need more support groups. It is not the sole responsibility of the Department of Health but the whole of civil society. Let us altogether ensure successful breastfeeding for Filipino moms),” Dr. Calibo ended.