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Plan International calls on legislators in the Philippines to withdraw House Bill amending the Milk Code

Source: Plan International - Mon, 11 Jun 2012 09:59 GMT
Author: Plan International
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Plan International, a child rights organization that works to protect the children’s right to a good and healthy start in life, strongly opposes House Bill entitled “An Act Promoting a Comprehensive Program on Breastfeeding Practices and Regulating the Trade, Marketing and Promotions of Certain Foods for Infants and Children” on the following grounds:

1. This bill will adversely affect the significant improvement in exclusive breastfeeding rates in the Philippines and will reverse the positive trend that has been gained in recent years. The 2011 study of the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute shows that there is a 10% increase in exclusive breastfeeding rate from 35.9% in 2008 to 46.7% in 2011, and 16% decrease in the use of artificial milks with complementary foods from 55.4% to 39.4%

2. It narrows the application of the Milk Code only to artificial feeding products (such as formula milk) for the age group of 0 to six months instead of the current 0 to 36 months

3. It lifts all restrictions on donations of breast milk substitutes in times of emergency

4. It makes lactation breaks for breastfeeding mothers at work unpaid.

Plan International asserts that breastmilk is vital to infant and child health for several reasons:

1. Breast milk is the perfect and complete source of nutrition and energy for the first six months of life

2. It provides protection from infectious diseases

3. It improves cognitive development

4. Breastmilk is one of the most cost-efficient ways of improving the health and survival rates of infants and young children

While infant formula milk has been adjusted so that it is more like human milk, it is far from perfect for babies. The quality of protein in the animal milk can never equal the quality of protein in breastmilk. The protein in animal milk is difficult for a baby’s stomach to digest and this can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, rashes and other illnesses.

Breastmilk is also the safest food for babies under worst conditions and in exceptionally difficult circumstances when safe water supply and sanitation are scarce.

It is a common misconception that in emergencies, many mothers can no longer breastfeed adequately due to stress or inadequate nutrition. While stress can temporarily interfere with the flow of breast milk, it is not likely to inhibit breast-milk production, provided mothers and infants remain together and are adequately supported to initiate and continue breastfeeding. Mothers who lack food or who are malnourished can still breastfeed adequately. Adequate fluids and extra food for the mother will help protect their health and well-being.

Plan, thus, urges the proponents to withdraw the bill “An Act Promoting a Comprehensive Program on Breastfeeding Practices and Regulating the Trade, Marketing and Promotions of Certain Foods for Infants and Children.”

Give Filipino babies a chance to a healthy start. Ensure the survival rates of infants and young children. Withdraw the bill now.

Plan has been working in the Philippines since 1961. For 50 years now, our work and investment have been broadly based around key issues affecting children: education, health, livelihood, governance, water and environmental sanitation, child protection and disaster risk reduction and management.

For more information, contact Malou Sevilla, Plan’s Program Advisor on Health at 0917-5838913 or Mardy Halcon, Communications Officer at 0917-5435210.

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