Waste and pollution activists belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition conveyed their support for breastfeeding as the government clashed with the milk industry at the Supreme Court last week over the legality of the revised implementing rules and regulations that tighten the 20-year-old National Milk Code and expand the ban on the promotion of breastmilk substitutes for children up to two years of age.
“We, women and men who have been blessed to be breastfed by our mothers, add our voice to the raging battle to defend our culture of breast-feeding from being weakened by publicity gimmicks that only seek to create a larger market for infant formula and rake in profits for milk and advertising companies,” said Gigie Cruz-Sy, a lactating mother and member of the EcoWaste Coalition. The World Health Organization estimates that Filipinos spend some P21.5 billion a year to feed babies with commercial breast-milk substitutes.
Echoing the concern of public health experts, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed shock over the disturbing decline in breast-feeding in the Philippines. Data from the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey showed that only 16.1 percent of infants are solely breast-fed up to four to five months of age, down from 20 percent in 1998. The waning rate in breast-feeding has been linked to the death of some 16,000 children under five due to improper feeding practices.
In an e-mailed statement, the EcoWaste Coalition affirmed that breast milk offers the best nutritional start in life for children, providing babies with vital nutrients, sufficient water for hydration, and health-enhancing antibodies and enzymes to protect them against infection and allergy. Breast-feeding allows a healthy bonding between the baby and the mother and further helps in birth spacing.
Breast milk, emphasized the EcoWaste Coalition, is naturally produced and readily available to the infant consumer at the right temperature without creating waste and pollution that lead to climate change and a host of community health and environmental problems.
“As advocates for waste prevention and reduction, we can not help but be incensed by the ongoing attack against breastfeeding. We assert that breastfeeding is not only best for babies and their mothers, but also best in protecting the environment,” said Cruz-Sy. She further warned that “any attempt to undermine breast-feeding is a gross disservice to Mother Earth and humanity.”
In explaining the ecological benefits of breast-feeding, Cruz pointed out that unlike infant formula, breast milk is waste-free and requires neither paper, plastic and tin packaging nor feeding gear like plastic bottles and teats, the production of which consumes lots of raw materials and generates tons of wastes and toxics.
“By breast-feeding, women forestall the further destruction of our ravaged environment, given that breast-feeding requires no forest to be cleared for pasture or to grow cattle feed, no trees to be felled for the labels and promotional gimmicks, no mountain to be mined to produce tin cans, and no fossil fuels to be burned to support the complex cycle of producing and transporting milk substitutes,” said Cruz-Sy.
Members of the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the government and the civil society to continue defending the right of each and every baby to full access to breast milk for the sake of child, maternal and environmental health.
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