I was at the launch of the Breastfeeding TSEK campaign months ago but was not really familiar with the details. Still, it was really nice to see the government funding the promotion of breastfeeding awareness and support. It was now tapping new media even!
Welcome Remarks and call for support was made by Asec. Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial while Dr. Anthony Calibo (Supervising Officer for Essential Newborn Care, NDCC-DOH) presented the Breastfeeding TSEK Primer. The PR is being handled by Campaigns Cebu.
Highlights of/Notes taken from the bloggers engagement include:
* We actually have better breastfeeding laws compared to other countries; we have a problem with implementation though
* Aside from the usual Milk Code Violations, we also have a culture where most pregnant mothers do not go for prenatal pediatric consultation to know their rights and responsibilities
* There is a growing trend now of OB-GYNs also pushing milk formula by colluding with their 'partner' pediatricians; "if you don't push this milk, I will not send clients your way" (on top of hospitals issuing formula cans; pediatricians ordering formula feeding for any number of reasons; and public health workers giving away formula to mothers they see in their clinics... all funded by milk company giants, of course)
* Good news: Aside from designated breastfeeding areas in public places in Davao, there are also reserved bus seats for breastfeeding moms
* Based on their most recent studies, 53% of mothers breastfeed after giving birth, but only 33.5% do it exclusively for the first 6 months of life. The median duration of exclusive breastfeeding is 2.8 months, corresponding to length of maternity leave and an obvious room for improvement on information dissemination (that it is doable to exclusively breastfeed even after going back to work, and how) and support (both from family and employer). Sorry I cannot cite the specific study and year but maybe we can ask from the Breastfeeding TSEK Facebook page
* There is actually about 20% or more who breastfeed for the first six months and do not give formula, but give water or other things (solids, honey, etc) and it is DOH's hope to target this population to just exclusively breastfeed to bring the percentage of exclusive breastfeeding to over 50%
* A story of a breastfeeding mom who pumped in a toilet cubicle: a colleague only heard the low hum of the pump motor, reported it to the supervisor and the whole thing resulted in Bomb Squad, NBI, etc being called
* 38.4% of the labor force is composed of women; 33% of union members are women... which should empower women to insist on their needs and roles being considered and addressed
* Mothers who want to delay rooming in should also be informed of the increased chance of catching infections the longer their newborn stays in the nursery (issue of support system will come in here for the newly-delivered mom)
* Region VI (Western Visayas) showed consistent low scores in proper breastfeeding and complementary feeding scores; Region X (Northern Mindanao) consistently scored high
* Underweight problems set in at age of solid introduction which suggests a problem with proper complementary feeding
* Formula milk has to have added iron as the allergens in it result in microbleeding for babies
* to my question of whether the Breastfeeding TSEK program has anything in it to also effect changes in the training of medical students, there was no clear answer (breastfeeding is just a course topic, not even an entire subject for med students, when breastfeeding experts cannot even cover everything about it in two weeks)... however, it seems the World Health Organization (WHO) has already issued a guide for curriculum developers and that they are targetting nutritionists especially (since they are actually required to master formula components & preparation); there has also been a curriculum integration meeting where medical schools were represented last year;
* I brought the matter up because aside from the OB and the pedia, nursing mothers who get sick also see a slew of other doctor specialists who are quick to prescribe medications without considering its safety for a nursing mom or who refuse to prescribe/look up safer drug alternatives
* A good thing is the government's conditional cash transfer program (CCT) involving DepEd, DSWD and DOH wherein P5.7 billion has been allocated for DOH's social service package to cover basic emergency obstetrical and neonatal care facilities. "Under the CCT program, the government provides a monthly stipend of P500 to mothers plus P300 per child up to three on condition that they keep their children in school, that they receive immunization, and that the mothers avail themselves of pre-natal and other check-ups. (Source)" Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are also given Vitamin A and Iron supplements.
Training for breastfeeding peer counselors all over the country will also commence this June, so yes, the government is now doing more so breastfeeding can save lives.
I was a little annoyed and disappointed that only half of the bloggers who confirmed for the event showed up. As a former government employee, I know just how limited the funds are and no-shows are a waste of resources.
I spoke about this with Campaigns Cebu and asked them, should there be another blogcon on DOH's breastfeeding program, that I be contacted so I can also invite actual breastfeeding advocate bloggers.
It is good to have converts among those who make a career out of blogger events but inviting those who are already advocates too will effect bigger improvements as we can work better with the government, offer more informed feedback and see how else we can help.
I have also asked DOH to let me cover their peer counselors training so I can blog about it. Hopefully, I can be accommodated. I really believe that knowing what the government is doing, no matter how slow or small, can result in more cooperative constituents.
And I have no agenda other than to help save lives... both the baby's and the mother's.