UNICEF joined the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action in commemorating World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August 2009, through the release of this video which underscores the vital importance of breastfeeding during emergencies.
You can read UNICEF’s press release here. Two things struck me most in that press release.
“Globally, only 38 percent of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed”.
The Philippines’ 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) has just been recently publicly released and I am sad to read that the Philippine statistics are even lower than the global rates. Although the headline states that 50% of Filipina moms breastfeed, this number refers to babies at 1-2 months. According to our Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III, “the 50 percent breastfeeding rate in 2008 was down from 53 percent in 2003; the same study showed 34 percent of infants below six months are being exclusively breastfed.” Actually, the 34% rate refers to babies at 2-3 months. I was able to obtain a copy of of the 2008 NDHS survey and the results are more dismal. At 4-5 months, only 22.6% are exclusively breastfeeding, despite the UNICEF’s (and other experts’) position that breastfeeding provides the best food for a baby’s first six months of life.
“More damaging is the common donor impulse to send infant formula or breast milk substitutes to disaster zones”
When I was single and not breastfeeding Naima, I was guilty of this same practice. Actually, even during the early months of breastfeeding Naima, I was likewise guilty of propagating the formula culture. I had cans and cans of formula leftover since I was already making enough milk for Naima. My mom’s secretary had a baby two months older than Naima and was think of weaning at 6 months. I did encourage her to continue breastfeeding, but I guess my encouragement was not enough and what was even more damaging was that as I eventually sent her all my cans and bottles of formula.
In hindsight, I should have thrown out all those formula instead of giving them away. This is also the reason why I don’t advice new moms to buy even just a small can of formula “for reserve” or for “just in case”. With the Filipino trait of being frugal/thrifty, you will certainly be tempted to use the formula or give it away.