Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Promoting Breastfeeding

"Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (July). For this month, we join the National Nutrition Council - Department of Health in celebrating Nutrition Month with the theme "Isulong ang Breastfeeding - Tama, Sapat at EKsklusibo!" Participants will share their experiences in promoting breastfeeding or their tips on how breastfeeding should be promoted. Please scroll down to the end of this post and check out the other carnival participants."

Honestly, I’m bothered by the fact that in our country, many Filipinos, most especially the marginalized ones, consider formula feeding as some sort of a status symbol.  Imagine, most of them hardly have enough to pay for one decent meal in a day, and yet they would rather buy a can of expensive milk instead of making use of something that they can get for FREE.  And we aren’t even talking about the benefits of breastmilk as opposed to formula milk.

According to the UNICEF data of 2005-2009 (for some reason, I couldn't find a more recent data), only 34% of the newborns are exclusively breastfed below 6 months.  For a population of about over 92Million (for 2009), that is such a small number. 

I believe that our government really has to work on educating the masses about this.  I am also very much disappointed at the celebrity moms whom I thought were breastfeeding advocates but later ended up endorsing a certain milk brand.  Regardless if the milk they endorse is not for newborns, I still feel that they could have used their position of influence over their followers to do something good– like educating them on what’s good for the health of their children and their pockets as well.  I’m pretty sure these celebrities can very well afford to give up one endorsement in exchange for heeding one’s social responsibility.  What a big loss in opportunity.

One night as I was watching TV, I chanced upon a show of Gladys Reyes where Bianca Araneta-Elizalde was a guest and I admired her for being vocal about her breastfeeding advocacy.  Maybe it was just me but I felt a bit of tension between the host and Bianca since the former was an endorser for formula milk for children.  If only Bianca had mass appeal, I’m sure a lot of people would be inspired to breastfeed their children as well.  Which leads me to thinking, why can’t we encourage these celebrities (especially the ones who have a huge following with the masses) to go public with their choice to breastfeed?  I know government cannot afford to give them talent fees as big as the milk manufacturers but if it’s for a good cause, I’m sure some of them would have the conscience to agree.  Sure, Lea Salonga, Tintin Bersola and many others have been more vocal.  But comparing them to Judy Ann Santos, Claudine Barreto, or even Kris Aquino (had she decided to BF), etc. the latter would surely be able to convince more people than the former.  As they say in Filipino, “sayang talaga.”  If they had only stuck to advocating breastfeeding and declined on accepting formula milk endorsements, they could have helped a lot.  I distinctly remember Angelina Jolie's breastfeeding photos were a hot topic back then, as well as that of Salma Hayek breastfeeding an african baby.  Imagine the impact this would have on the Filipinos of something like that were to come out featuring today's hottest stars.  I'm sure it'll become an instant fad!

They really should get a celebrity endorser.  Or better yet, they should come out with a big billboard along EDSA that boldly proclaims Breastfeeding as the cheapest and healthiest milk for babies.  (I got that idea from a n@wie that suggested there be a billboard that says Babywearing Rocks!).  Wouldn’t it be nice if that billboard should show breastfeeding mothers of all sorts including the “artistas”.  That would surely catch the eye of a lot of people (although on second thought we might get into trouble with the MMDA for indecent exposure or something).

Maybe they can get Andi Eigenmann (now that she’s pregnant) to be one of their model endorsers?  Personally, I think the billboard would be a good idea.  I’d even volunteer to be a part of that if they push through with it, seriously!

Taken during Janina's 1st birthday party
But knowing that change always starts from within, for the meantime, I try do my own share in promoting breastfeeding.  I’ve never hesitated to declare to anyone and everyone that I breastfeed and I like talking about it and sharing my experiences with it.  If I can, I’d gladly encourage anyone to breastfeed.  Which is also why I am not shy about openly breastfeeding even when we are not at home.  I’ve fed my babies in the mall, at church (many many times), in a restaurant, at a party, in the car, in the office, while waiting for my turn at the doctors and even while in a business meeting (with my friends), and in many other places that you wouldn’t imagine.  I know it isn’t much but it’s something and most importantly, it’s a start.  I may not be a poster girl or a movie star but maybe, just maybe, by breastfeeding in public, I can encourage at least one more mom to consider breastfeeding her baby instead of giving formula milk.

So while we wait for the more influential people in the government to be able to do something about promoting breastfeeding, I will still do my share – I will share to whomever wishes to listen about the benefits of why I chose to breastfeed my kids.  Hopefully I’ll be able to fulfill my social obligation.  

I hope you check out the other wonderful mommas participating in the carnival, please check out these links:


  1. Pittipat, money talks talaga :D Actually Gladys was a breastfeeding ambassador. then she went on to promote Abbott's Grow Milk. I tweeted her before and she said.. she is still breastfeeding her 6month old baby and the milk she is promoting is for toddlers naman daw. Parang they don't see how promoting the milk company itself is damaging especially since the masses to whom they appeal to don't distinguish naman whether that formula is for 0-6 or 6-12 or 1 up.. yun iba nga, they feed bear brand to their babies kase it's the cheapest!

  2. Jen, yun nga e. It's so sad that for them na malaki ang kinikita, nasisilaw sila ng pera over their social responsibilities. I don't want to sound self-righteous pero sayang kasi... They have the capability of doing so much and I feel bad about the missed opportunity.

  3. Hi, Pittipat! I find your site so inspiring. :)

    Lea Salonga has herself endorsed Enfa(lac?) (-mil?) (-grow?).. not sure, but it is the Enfa series.

    In my observation, top models and some upscale-society moms like Bianca Elizalde and Audrey Zubiri are BFing advocates. And then there is Daphne Paez. They just lack the mega-wattage star power of Juday, Gladys, Kris, and Sharon, so mahirap mag-reach out sa masa.

    We said the same thing (i did in my blog) -- that formula-feeding is some sort of a status symbol. even bottle-feeding! my friends in my facebook account, those who have given birth, proudly show off their Avent bottles being used by their newborn (i cringe at the sight). syempre kasi high-end yung price ng bottle. my wise guess would be, formula yung milk.

  4. Pittipat, I agree with you.

    In the legal circle alone, you might be surprised to find out that there are a number of breastfeeding moms (aside from Jenny who's one of the staunchest advocates of breastfeeding). One of my batchmates, who publishes a local newspaper in Davao del Sur, regularly devotes space for her breastfeeding advocacy.

    We may not be stars like Judy Ann and Gladys but in our OWN way, be it small or 'bonggacious', we can do our part in promoting breastfeeding. :)

  5. It's so disappointing to see influential celebrities endorsing formula when you know that they are breastfeeding, too. Parang walang convictions. All of a sudden they kind of become "mukhand pera" to me!

    Of course, there's the milk companies to blame, too, especially since they purposely tap celebs for endorsements. Sayang, kase we Filipinos are easily dazzled by celeb endorsements. Just drive down Edsa!

    I remember one time my nail technician being shocked that I was breastfeeding V right then and there in the nail spa while I was having a foot scrub (He was like 4 months). The technician said she just gives Nido milk to her son; high-end formulas daw would mean she'd have to work double shifts daw.

    Had she known that I was working full time as a teacher then and expressing milk to leave behind for V while I was at the office! I mean, for a person of her employment and financial status, you can buy a manual breastpump for as low as P700 at the mall, and that's good enough. Hindi lang nila alam.

    And then I thought about how many people spend so much on milk formula when they don't need to. Kawawa naman. Parang linoloko sila. These milk companies are nothing more than cash cows, and our people are lapping up wrong information. And the babies are the ones who suffer in the end.

  6. Dina, you're right - Lea does endorse another milk brand. :(

    Martine, that's what upsets me. People are not properly informed about breastfeeding. They feel that they have to for the cheap milk because they can't afford the formula milk, not realizing that the better milk is just for free. They don't even need a breastpump because I know some people work better with hand expression. Pero yun nga, they become victims of the milk companies e. Sayang

  7. I'm reminded of the breastfeeding exhibit a few months back. Imagine if those photos were of Celebrities! I'm sure there are enough celebrities who'd have breastfeeding photos. Maybe they're not the likes of Juday but recognizable celebrities just the same. Ika nga, start from somewhere.

  8. RC - so true. Incidentally, was the exhibit you were talking about the one in MOA? If yes, that was organized by LATCH and Janina and I were a part of it :) But you are right, it would have created more waves had the models been recognizable celebrities.

  9. A comment made by Mec:

    I think it's easier for celeb moms abroad to advocate breastfeeding because they may not be as utilized by milk companies as in our case... and well, Salma Hayek for one comes from a multi-millionnaire family and her child's dad is a billionaire... so she can very well say NO to any formula ads, should they come proposing...
    But in our case... celebs make money any way they can and milk companies have the millions to pay them off.

    I, too, would love a billboard on EDSA w/ breastfeeding stars! Kaso nga... Biacna, Daphne, Audrey... they do not have masa appeal. They might just further alienate the masa too, which is sad...

  10. Maybe we can switch the heads just like they switch it with beautiful bodies? Haha! Just kidding!

    Seriously, with the growing number/efforts that milk companies does, I'm thinking that we are winning. They wouldn't have that much effort if the trending of the number of breastfeeding women is going down. Do you know how many entrepreneurs there were for breastfeeding products 3 years ago? Do you know how many batchmates I have at a breastfeeding seminar 3 years ago? Believe it or not, it is not even half of how many they are right now. Do the math, if those numbers more than doubled in 3 years, I think milk companies are just doing what is necessary for them to survive - more than double their efforts as well - in any way. Whatever we are doing, let's keep at it or double it. I know we're winning.