Last Saturday, I was happy to have attended the Milk Code Forum organized by Arugaan, in cooperation with UP WinLaw and UP Volunteers for Children. It was a packed day, with several speakers. The coordinator/facilitator was Nanay Ines of Arugaan and she had the entire room decorated with various breastfeeding posters.

The forum started with a brief welcome by Unicef’s Elham Monsef. She focused on the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week and discussed how the promotion of formula during emergencies displaced the breastfeeding moms. She also emphasized that in times of calamities, formula donations should not be given directly to breastfeeding moms, but rather be coursed through the Department of Health who will then determine whether a certain mom really needs it or whether giving her this formula will just curtail her breastfeeding relationship. Elham stressed the need to strengthen the 3 pillars of breastfeeding – protect, support and promote; and rued the loss of the culture of breastfeeding in the Philippines.
The forum participants were also lucky to hear Dr. Anthony Calibo’s discussion. Dr. Anthony Calibo is the Philippine Medical Tourism Manager of the Office of the Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Department of Health. Dr. Calibo is also a practicing pediatrician and is connected with St. Luke’s Medical Center. He discussed his experience as a medical student (on how breastfeeding is superficially discussed) and as young resident, who was bombarded by marketing strategies of big milk companies, in hopes that he will be swayed to support them. Dr. Cabilo emphasized that breastfeeding information should be given even by the ob-gynes and believed that pediatricians have a role in prenatal care (e.g. if only to advise the mothers about breastfeeding and rooming-in). He wrote a research paper on the top things that ob-gynes discuss with their patients and sadly, breastfeeding is not included in the list. It is really a sickness of the medical practice – to rely on milk companies/big pharmaceutical companies to support medical conventions – and thus be susceptible to marketing gimmicks or strategies thrown back to the doctors.