Archive for Breastfeeding in the Philippines

A Proud Mother’s Daughter – Rebecca

This is a touching story of mother and child that strikes us to the core.

(The story was lifted from inquirer newspaper –

Read on and share your thoughts.


By Rose Beatrix C. Angeles
First Posted 13:56:00 01/17/2008

Sa aking pagtulog na labis ang himbing
Ang bantay ko’y tala
Ang tanod ko’y bituin
Sa piling ni Nanay
Langit ang buhay
Puso kong may dusa
Sabik sa ugoy ng duyan mo Inay
Sana narito ka Inay

“Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” – Lyrics by Levi Celerio, Music by Lucio San Pedro,
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother,
What would I be?

“Que Sera, Sera”- Lyrics by Jay Livingston, Music by Ray Evans
Once upon a time a little girl was born with a birth defect so severe, no less than four major operations were necessary for her to have a chance to grow normally. After those four operations, she was to undergo another three, after four years. The birth defect is known as VACTERL association, which is a group of birth defects that appear together in children of diabetic mothers or children born with chromosomal defects. She had the latter.

She had an imperforate anus (no hole); some portions of her spinal cord were stuck onto some vertebrae and she had a discontinuous esophagus (the esophagus or food tube did not reach the stomach). Her heart however was fine, as were her kidneys and her brain.

Despite all these defects, she was so pretty and otherwise alert and attentive that the nurses of the different divisions of the two hospitals she was treated in would come from different wings just to see the poor beautiful baby. Her mother would visit her for hours everyday, defying neo-natal ICU rules. Nanay would sing Sa Ugoy ng Duyan or bring a tape of the Canon in D by Pachebel. Songs the little girl must have heard in utero.

Her first operation was performed only hours after she was born. Her Nanay saw her for the first time when the little girl was wheeled into the O.R. By that time, she had a name –

She survived that colostomy operation where doctors created a hole in her side so she could get rid of wastes despite lacking a perforation in her anus. A few weeks later, she had her second operation to connect her esophagus to her stomach.

Before this second operation, she was fed through a tube in her side that led directly to her stomach. Nanay’s breast milk was poured into that tube until after the second operation. After which Rebecca had to learn to suckle. Not long after that, she went home to her brothers and sister.

Nanay’s insistence on using the breast pump very often to store milk for her, was a practice honed on three older children, and she had milk to spare. Some of that milk was donated to the Philippine General Hospital’s Neonatal ICU for infants whose parents often had to work very hard just to buy synthetic milk.

Rebecca was back in the hospital before she was two months old. While waiting for her next major operation, she somehow contracted pneumonia less than two weeks after her last operation. She could not breathe. Despite all positive signs, Becca died shortly before Christmas, leaving behind a family devastated by her loss.

At less than two months of age, Becca did not make much of an impression on world affairs. Her birth and death were marked only by her family. But so great was the void she left that her mother could not cope with her own grief.

Nanay refused to take medication to stop her breast milk. She continued to pump her milk, donating them to the PGH Neonatal ICU. One time, she stopped by the unit and after asking permission, selected a very sick infant and breastfed him. This happened a few times more.

Several babies were sustained by Becca’s breast milk, which lasted several months. Some of those babies were so sick, they, like Becca, died anyway. But the others survived. Those babies would be about eight or nine years old this year. Hopefully they are good, intelligent, boisterous, healthy and active kids. Someday I hope that they will know that they survived in part because a dead baby’s mother’s milk sustained them.


The recent Supreme Court decision that voids the total ban on milk formula advertising instituted by the Department of Health in effect allows the advertising of breast milk substitutes. The advertisements add the weight of big business against the myriad existing discouragements for breast feeding.

Pharmaceutical companies that produce such “milk” stand to gain millions if allowed to advertise. The advertising misleads many mothers, especially the poor and uneducated, into believing that such substitutes are better for their babies. Yet by now, all the studies lead us to the conclusion that breast milk substitutes are an expensive but very poor substitute for mother’s milk. Impoverished mothers, who work for a mere pittance, are enslaved by the vicious cycle of being separated from their newborns and working for only enough wages to buy breast milk substitutes. Yet, by such advertising, these same mothers believe that staying home to breastfeed their babies is a waste of time or inadequate mothering

In Third World countries where such products are usually imported, they represent an unnecessary drain on dollar reserves while compromising on the health of the most helpless next generation.

Support the movement to enact pro-breastfeeding legislation. Amend the Milk Code to prevent pharmaceutical companies from advertising their insidious products.

Rebecca Katrina Cruz Angeles (26 October-22 December 1999) was the columnist’s fourth child.


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Study: Breastfeeding may improve IQ scores

Children who were breastfed exclusively for at least three months had better intelligence scores later in life than those who received formula, according to the largest study on the subject.

Breastfed children received better results in verbal, non- verbal and overall intelligence tests and significantly higher academic ratings in reading and writing at the age of six than those who received formula, according to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund promote breast-feeding, which they say is cheaper, more convenient and may be healthier and better for cognitive development. The study’s findings confirm results from other research that has suggested a positive effect of breast-feeding on intelligence.

“These results, based on the largest randomized trial ever conduced in the area of human lactation, provide strong evidence that prolonged and exclusive breast-feeding improves children’s cognitive development,” said study author Michael Kramer from the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

The researchers looked at 17,046 healthy infants who were breastfed at maternity hospitals in Belarus and followed up 13,889 of these at the age of 6.5 years. They studied IQ scores on the Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence and teacher evaluations of performance in reading, writing and mathematics.

Children who were breastfed scored 7.5 points higher on verbal intelligence scores, 2.9 points higher on non-verbal intelligence scores and 5.9 points higher on tests measuring overall intelligence.

The study is limited by the fact that the researchers don’t know whether the positive effect on intelligence scores comes from breast-feeding or from characteristics of the mothers who are more likely to nurse. The researchers didn’t include the cognitive abilities of the parents.

Scientists also can’t tell whether the benefits of breast-feeding are because of some constituent of breast milk such as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids or if they are related to the physical and social interactions inherent in breast-feeding.

The number of mothers who start breast-feeding has increased substantially over the last 30 years, Kramer said. Much less progress has been made in increasing the exclusivity and duration of the practice, Kramer said.

“Because protection against infections in developed country settings doesn’t have the life-and-death implications for infants and child health that it does in less-developed settings, cognitive benefits may be among the most important advantages for breastfed infants in industrialized societies,” Kramer said.

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FDA Relied on Industry Studies to Judge Chemical Safety

This post has been lifted from the savebabies coalition groups.

For IBFAN’s working group on contaminants,
This posting shows how important it is for us to work on the problem of Bisphenol A in cans containing formula, baby bottles etc., because the picture is clearer now that we know how the evidence was flawed.

Posted on: Saturday, 22 March 2008, 03:00 CDT

Ignoring hundreds of government and academic studies showing a chemical commonly found in plastic can be harmful to lab animals at low doses, the Food and Drug Administration determined the chemical was safe based on just two industry-funded studies that didn’t find harm.

In response to a congressional inquiry, Stephen Mason, the FDA’s acting assistant commissioner for legislation, wrote in a letter that his agency’s claim relied on two pivotal studies sponsored by the Society of the Plastics Industry, a subsidiary of the American Chemistry Council.

One of the studies has never been published, and therefore never subjected to peer review; the second has been heavily criticized by researchers who say the results are inconclusive because of flawed experimental methods.

“The FDA is really going to have problems over this,” said Frederick vom Saal, a bisphenol A researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In January, Michigan Democrats Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak, who leads a subcommittee, launched an investigation into the use of bisphenol A in cans containing baby formula and other products aimed at infants and toddlers.

Studies have shown that bisphenol A causes breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes and hyperactivity in laboratory animals. Two government panels, including one that has come under fire as being biased in favor of chemical-makers, have warned that bisphenol A might be dangerous to developing fetuses and children younger than 3.

Bisphenol A was developed in 1891 as a synthetic estrogen but came into widespread use in the 1950s when scientists realized it could be used to make polycarbonate plastic and some epoxy resins to line food and beverage cans. More than 6 billion pounds of bisphenol A are produced annually in the United States, for use in an array of products, including dental sealants and baby bottles.

The chemical has been found in the urine of 93% of Americans tested.

Companies questioned

The Michigan politicians sent letters to seven major manufacturers of infant formula, including Nestle USA and Abbott, demanding answers about the companies’ use and knowledge of the chemical bisphenol A.

They also sent a letter to the FDA, requiring the agency’s commissioner to show the scientific support for its position on the chemical’s safety.

On Feb. 25, the FDA responded. The letter appeared on the Web site of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week.

According to the letter, the FDA based its claim that there is no “safety concern at the current exposure level” on its own studies, conducted in the 1990s, which indicated that people were exposed to small amounts of the chemical.

They gathered that information by testing products such as aluminum cans and baby bottles to see how much of the chemical was leaching. Then they looked to the two chemical industry studies to see if those exposure levels could cause harm.

The two studies said the chemical caused no harm to rodents at low doses.

Effects on rats

One of those studies has been criticized by researchers who say it contained flawed experimental methods.

Because bisphenol A is believed to behave like the hormone estrogen, scientists need to show that the animals they are using in an experiment will respond to estrogen. If they don’t, then it is unlikely that they will respond to bisphenol A, either.

Some research indicates that one strain of rat, the Charles River Sprague-Dawley rat, responds to estrogen only at high doses — doses higher then what’s typically found in a birth control pill.

The industry study that the FDA relied on looked at the effects of bisphenol A on Sprague-Dawley rats, but neglected to expose any rats in the experiment to estradiol, a strong synthetic estrogen. Therefore, critics of the paper say the results are inconclusive.

Surprised by admission

Anila Jacob, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, said she was surprised that the FDA so openly admitted to relying on those two studies, particularly when one of them has never been published or released to the scientific world for review.

“There’s a lack of transparency here,” she said, adding that the agency’s reliance on these studies “doesn’t serve the public.”

Officials at the FDA or the House Energy and Commerce Committee could not be reached for comment Friday.

In December, the Journal Sentinel reported that another government program, the National Toxicology Program, gave more weight to industry-funded studies and more leeway to industry-funded researchers in its review of the chemical.
Source: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative

In one of her hospital visits to strengthen breastfeeding advocacies, Mama presents the advocacy frames that will encourage mothers to breastfeed their children. She likewise gives the latest updates on breastfeeding issues to the doctors and nurses as seen in this visit at De La Salle Dasmarinas Cavite.

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A Neonatologist tells Why to Breastfeed

This letter was sent on behalf of the savebabies egroups from whom I received a compliment from Dr. Mianne Silvestre of PGH as part of my advocacy and intense campaign against bottle feeding.

– – – –
Dear Colleagues,

Greetings! Alexis and Ines (in a previous email), thank you very much for your acknowledgment. Very humbling naman . . .

I guess that, in my work as a neonatologist, I am just so lucky to be able to witness all the amazing capabilities of the newborns and mothers and contribute to protecting breastfeeding from the magical first hour 🙂 And I am just picking up the work that Drs. Natividad Clavano and Gloria Ramirez started way back and that Dr. Lester Lora and others continue with but just in a different arena. More and more pediatricians and some obstetricians and anesthesiologists are changing their hearts and minds about breastfeeding. We just have to keep the messages clear, consistent and resounding 🙂

As educators, we dream to put breastfeeding at the CORE of pediatric (and for that matter, all medical and paramedical) education where it should rightfully be. Admittedly, we are having to chip away at long decades of the opposite. Currently, bottle feeding is the routine, the ordinary, the commonplace in many health facilities and homes with the breastfeeding as an outlier. Our target is to reverse this and make breastfeeding the routine.

More strength and energy to all of us, in our little corners,


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Dra.Lora and Dra. Javier

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