Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Open letter to the Philippines:

Congratulations to Mountain Province on their innovative approach to "Baby-friendly". The new UNICEF materials created with WHO when I was Sr. Advisor, UNICEF HQ, support these creative efforts to ensure that every baby has the best start on life.

And congratulations to the Government of the Philippines for its efforts to override the commercial pressures of the formula industry to disrupt the legal process of a legitimate government to ensure the best for its children.

Thank you for caring about our children, our future!!

BONTOC, Mountain Province, Philippines -- Acknowledging that breast milk is still best for babies and the most nutritionally complete food the baby would ever eat, significant steps were undertaken by the government in promoting breastfeeding through baby-friendly hospitals where rooming-in after birth and exclusive breastfeeding are practiced to reverse the trend of artificial feeding. In the province, all the hospitals are certified as mother-baby friendly facilities, meaning these health institutions are implementing the Milk Code (Executive Order 51), Rooming-in Act (Republic Act 7600), and other breastfeeding policies.

Dr. Imelda Sabog, medical specialist IV of the Bontoc General Hospital (BGH), said a mother who gives birth is normally advised to breast-feed her baby within one hour after birth. For a baby born through caesarian, he or she is endorsed for wet nursing (lang-ay) while the mother is still under the effect of anesthesia. This means the baby would be brought to a nursing mother or health worker for breastfeeding. The hospitals prohibit the entry of any milk formula. Even the cooperative pharmacy within the hospital compound is not allowed to sell infant formula. No food or drink is given to newborn infants other than breast milk unless medically indicated.

The hospital is also strictly practicing rooming-in where the babies and mothers remain together 24 hours a day as soon as possible after birth. Before the mothers and their babies are discharged from the hospital, health workers advise the mothers to exclusively breast-feed their babies for six months. The same advice is also given by health workers to mothers who gave birth in their own homes. Breastfeeding counseling is not only for mothers who already gave birth but also given to pregnant women when they go for pre-natal checkup.

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