dear international partners in breastfeeding advocacy,
we are pleased to share with you a brief write-up on the protest action
done by save babies coalition, spearheaded by innes fernandez. as expected,
the activity received one small article in the philippine daily inquirer
and no reports at all on television — even though at least two tv news
crews covered the event.
we would appreciate it very much if you could post this story and the
attached photo on your websites and/or blogs. this will be up on the unicef
philippines website shortly.
thank you very much!
In the, mothers demand truth about infant formula
Over 100 formula feeding mothers and their babies protested in front of
infant formula manufacturers’ offices, claiming milk advertisements have
deceived them into giving their babies infant formula instead of
“My message to the milk companies is to stop deceiving those who buy
infant formula,” says Nadine Sylvano, mother of five children. “They say
that their milk is good for children’s brains, will make children
healthy, stout and give strong bones. But it’s not true.”
“My breastfed child did not get sick often but this one, almost every
month I have to bring her again to the hospital because she is sick
again,” Sylvano observed.
When asked why she did not breastfeed her fifth child, Sylvano replies,
“Because I did not have milk from my breasts.”
Sylvano’s experience is a common one. According to the National
Statistics Office, 31 per cent of mothers in thedo not
breastfeed because they believe that they do not have enough milk.
Only 16 per cent of babies four to five months of age are still
Even though UNICEF and WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding in the
first six months of life, half of all babies in theare
exclusively breastfed for less than one month.
Aggressive advertising and marketing of infant formula has undermined
mothers’ confidence in their ability to nourish their children, claims
Innes Fernandez, convenor of Save Babies Coalition.
“They were all cheated, they were all beguiled by all this false
advertising, marketing activities that seduce them to buy their formula,
believing the testimonials of celebrities so they were always hoping and
wishing that they would have healthy babies,” Fernandez adds.
Milk companies aver that they also advocate for breastfeeding but want
to give consumers a choice.
“We believe… breastfeeding is best for babies,” says Andrew Santos,
Vice-President of Wyeth Philippines. “What we have there are products
that if the Mom chooses, or if for some reason she cannot breastfeed,
then she is given that on her own decision, to be able to, or the
paediatrician especially, to make a choice.”
Fernandez counters, however, that even medical doctors are unable to
make an informed choice about infant feeding.
Dr. Lester Lora, who used to manage the maternal and child health
programme in the Department of Health, says that even she was not
properly informed about breastfeeding.
“During our time, nobody taught us [in medical school] about
breastfeeding. Instead, we were taught how to prepare infant formula,”
Dr. Lora says.
As a result, she herself fed her three sons infant formula and blames it
for their lifelong battles with various diseases, from diabetes to
UNICEF has been supporting the Philippines Department of Health to more
strictly enforce the National Milk Code, which regulates the marketing
of breastmilk substitutes. However, in 2006, the Pharmaceutical and
Healthcare Association of the, made up of milk companies
among others, succeeded in appealing to the Supreme Court for a
temporary restraining order on the Code’s revised implementing rules and
In the meantime, infant formula advertisements continue to make claims
of health and cognitive benefits.
“Stop all these false claims,” demands Fernandez.