If you are also a reader of Chronicles of A Nursing Mom like me, you would also now be aware that the breastfeeding groups and advocates are campaigning against a pending bill in Congress. The truth behind the bill is hidden under a very pretty name, “An Act Promoting A Comprehensive Program on Breasfeeding Practices and Regulating the Trade, Marketing and Promotions of Certain foods for Infants and Children.” If you haven’t read the bill, you would think this was a great bill. They used the word “promoting” attached to “breastfeeding practices”, and “regulating” for “trade, marketing and promotions” to lead you to believe that this bill was all about improving and strengthening the laws that protect breastfeeding. In fact, all the bill aims for is to promote the interests of formula milk companies and does nothing for breastfeeding.
Jenny Ong drafted a table outlining the provisions in this proposed bill versus the current Milk Code.
The most alarming provisions in this anti-breastfeeding bill are:
- lowering the age limit for advertising formula from 36 months to 6 months,
- allowing formula milk donations in times of emergencies,
- allowing formula companies to have nutritional claims in their advertising; and
- allowing formula companies to conduct breastfeeding seminars.
- Most of the women encountered in evacuation areas during Ondoy, Sendong and the recent Habagat were already breastfeeding mothers. The need for formula milk was not that urgent and the calls for formula milk donations were not necessary.
- From the experience of my colleagues in relief operations, even breastfeeding mothers would line up for free formula milk handouts because they thought this was the better solution for their babies due to the claims they hear on the radio and TV. Some of them stop breastfeeding and are not able to sustain formula feeding for their children and resort to other things, like coffee creamer, evaporated milk, condensed milk and growing-up milk.
- To be able to feed their babies the formula in the evacuation centers, mothers took water from anywhere they could get it – gutters, portalets, drainpipes, you name it. Result? Diarrhea and illness.
- The formula milk companies take emergencies as an opportunity to promote their products.
- Donated formula is hard to regulate and monitor in times of emergencies, and mothers end up giving the wrong kind of milk to their infants.
Two original backers of the bill, Cong. Lani Mercado-Revilla and Cong. Lucy Torres-Gomez, have already retracted their support. However, more help is needed in order to inform our lawmakers that this Milk Monster bill will not improve our country’s health situation, only endanger it. The backer behind the bill, IPNAP (an association composed of formula milk companies) have a lot of money to throw around and are throwing a lot of it in the direction of getting this bill passed.
If you think about it, the real people that the formula milk companies are fighting are you and me. We are the sources of breastmilk, and they are trying very hard to make us believe we are not adequate for our own children.
You can help. Write a letter to your congress representative. You can find their email addresses in the directory on the HOR website. COANM has a draft you can start with, and you can add your own thoughts there.
We have no agenda, no vested interests, and nothing to gain for ourselves. If you believe in the cause, please help. We need all the voices who believe in breastfeeding to speak up.