Pinays are not breastfeeding enough

9:02 AM Wednesday, March 28, 2007



But we all grew up seeing women breastfeeding. How can this be true?

Actually, I don't have statistics to refer you to... but Apa Ongpin made that claim in an article he wrote for Working Mom magazine (October 2006, "Why I Love Boobs"). He said that "breastfeeding advocates discovered in their surveys that many Filipinos believe that formula is better than breastmilk".

At first, I really couldn't believe it to be accurate. I grew up seeing women nursing in jeepneys and sidewalks and while indulging in syetehan. But as I read on, I realized that it must be true indeed, for we wouldn't be called Pinoys if we didn't have colonial mentality really bad.

And so, our breastfeeding history goes... we were enculturated to choose formula as a better option since they're imported, and our women had to work, and everything just became a race to be more like the 'developed' countries.

If you must know, there is even a boycott going on against Nestle for playing the biggest role of having formula come between a child and his mother's breasts.

Need more proof that we're not breastfeeding enough? Telenovelas show struggling mothers banging on cans of milk as they struggle to feed their infants... the urban poor buy evap milk or powdered milk in un-labeled plastic packaging (or Bear Brand if they have the money) to feed their babies. And UNICEF found out that Philippines logs 16,000 child deaths every year caused by formula feeding. Add to this the cases of malnutrition, illnesses and complications and you'd be a corpse not to be staggered by the immensity of the problem.

Need more proof?

Did you know that:
1) It is very rare for a woman not to be able to produce milk for her young?
2) And that breastfeeding is a matter of supply and demand... and the mother's body will ultimately produce the required amount of milk to sustain a baby exclusively for the first 6 months of life?
3) That even women who have never been pregnant, or aren't pregnant, can produce milk... and breastfeeding adopted babies is possible?
4) That breast milk cannot be replicated, because it's not just food but also protection for the baby due to the antibodies it contains?
5) That size of breasts doesn't matter where production of milk is concerned?
6) That women who are sick with common illnesses (colds, flu) can and should breastfeed all the more to pass on their antibodies to their young?
7) That you cannot overfeed a baby with breast milk because breast milk adjusts to the baby's needs as he develops, due to a natural feedback system between the child and the breasts?
8) That nipples are self-cleaning?
9) That breast milk is always the right temperature?
10) That it requires a different sucking motion to get milk from breasts (some tongue action is also required), which is why bottle-fed babies will always prefer the bottles/artificial nipples because they don't have to work as much to get their milk?
11) That sucking from the breasts actually allow for a better jaw alignment for the child?
12) That breastfeeding lessens cancer risks for both the baby and the mother?
13) That breastfeeding has good long term effects to both mother and child?
14) That breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months can actually save the middle-income family at least P25,000, not including the savings from wastage, sterilization, cost of having a healthier baby, etc?
15) That breastfeeding does not really need to hurt, once you master proper latching?
16) That babies are unlikely to be allergic to breast milk, but may have allergic reactions to things you eat that are passed onto your breast milk?

Did any of you know these things? Have you even heard of a third of these things? We've always been told by formula commercials that breastfeeding is still best for babies, but we're not being told why. I'm sure am not alone when I say that I know a lot of women who have given birth and not breastfed because they believed they didn't have milk, or that breastfeeding will ruin their figures. Doctors and nurses don't even push a mother to nurse in most hospitals here.

But there is hope for us yet. GMA has made a token move of acknowledging that we must breastfeed more. I say token move because I have yet to feel the campaigns for this... and I had to learn of the above by attending a breastfeeding lecture and really doing research. I'm one of the educated and I still had to seek the information and support out... which should not be the case if the government is really intent in saving the economy and saving the Filipino children.

I am even put to shame by the fact that most women I know will research on outfits and overspend on baby stuff and accessories the minute they find out they're pregnant, without giving thought first on how they plan to actually take care of their child. Because breastfeeding is taking care of your child... and it is not just a choice one makes, but a commitment that will entail sacrifices and require a certain way of life.

I pride myself with having made the decision and commitment to breastfeed even before I actually saw myself married. And I thank heavens for the means i've had to have come onto the necessary information to really enlighten and empower me to do so, now that i'm pregnant.

And I am one of the lucky ones who can give birth in a hospital with a more informed staff, hospitals that allow rooming-in, that have lactation experts, breastfeeding advocate doctors, etc.

Others are not, however, and we must help the breastfeeding movement. Do not be misled anymore.

Breastfeed, Pinay, breastfeed!


For more info on breastfeeding, Ask Dr. Sears.


BTW, my girls have ballooned to 38B already... :)


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