Breastfeeding Pinays (BFP), Department of Health (DOH), SM Cares, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with funding from Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and World Vision celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness Month with Hakab Na! 2019, an annual breastfeeding event that gathers hundreds of mothers who will latch their babies at the same time for at least a minute.
Optimal breastfeeding has the potential to significantly reduce child mortality more than any other preventive intervention. Scaling up breastfeeding to a near-universal level could prevent 823,000 child deaths per year globally, according to the scientific journal The Lancet. By supporting mothers to practice proper breastfeeding, nearly 50% of diarrhea episodes and a third of respiratory infections would be avoided. Breastfeeding has also been found to reduce the risk of childhood obesity and diabetes in children.
Breastfeeding is also associated with a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers for nursing mothers later in life. The Lancet estimates that 20,000 deaths from breast cancer death could be prevented annually through optimal breastfeeding.
Hakab Na! 2019 brings together families, breastfeeding support groups, advocates, government, and non- government organizations. This year’s theme “Lakas ng Magulang, Sigla ng Pagpapasuso – Kalusugan, Nutrisyon ng Kabataan para sa Kinabukasan” has been localized by the DOH for the Philippines based on the global theme “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding” from the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The gathering serves to encourage a dynamic exchange of ideas on providing proper information and support to Filipino mothers and their families to enable them to breastfeed, and practice good infant and young child feeding.
“Breastfeeding Pinays believes that a successful breastfeeding campaign requires a concerted effort among the government, non-government organizations and communities. Together, we can empower breastfeeding moms by assuring them that what they are doing is very valuable as it gives their children the best start in life,” shared Abie Co-Floreza, President of BFP.
The early years of a child are critical for brain development and physical growth. Studies have shown that non- breastfed children’s brain development can be negatively impacted. The first two to three years of life have a life-long effect on a child’s future impacting on health, education, wellbeing and earning potential in adulthood. In the Philippines, only 29% of infants are exclusively breastfed up to 5.9 months. WHO and UNICEF urge parents and caregivers to initiate exclusive breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding up to at least the first two years or beyond. We should consistently provide mothers the right information about the benefits of breastfeeding as well as provide supportive environment to breastfeed her baby anywhere, especially at home and in the workplace.
SM Cares Marie Bernadette D. Velasco, Program Director of SM Cares Program on Women and Breastfeeding Mothers, shares, “We envision our community of mothers to consider SM as their second home. SM strives to be a mall for all and continues to support the mothers and women in communities where our malls are present.”
Rommel V. Fuerte, Executive Director of World Vision Development added, “There is a need to sustain the efforts that we have collaboratively implemented to make #BreastmilkForTheBest realized and that laws that protect, promote and support optimal breastfeeding are strengthened. We need to include every member or the community to join us in in helping the government monitor the implementation of these laws and that violation are reported.”
“Investment in public health policies and programs that protect, promote, and support exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life and continuing breastfeeding with safe and appropriate infant and young child feeding practices is grounded on the education and empowerment of parents, communities, and even workplaces” notes Health Secretary Dr. Francisco T. Duque, III. “It is part of the few most cost-efficient and high-impact multi-sectoral interventions our country can count on in combating stunting and malnutrition, along with the care for the health and nutrition of our women of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.”
There are a number of actions that the government, civil society organizations and communities can take to protect, promote and support every Filipino child’s rights to survive and thrive. Strong foundation on the practice of exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, coupled with support given at the right time, can ensure children’s proper health and development, and allow them to achieve their full potential.
When parents and supporters have the correct information and support, they are empowered to exclusively breastfeed and continue breastfeeding to give sufficient nutrition to their children. This benefits the children, and the society as a whole.