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Formula feed still rules in RP


IT had to take the arm of the law—Republic Act 76000 of 1992-- for arm-twisting healthcare establishments in the Philippines. It had become legal since then for newborns to room in with their moms—for warmth and solace of bonding and health-giving intake of colostrum, mom’s first gush of milk, dirty-looking yet rich in nutrients and antibodies that curb a host allergies and diseases.

That wasn’t the usual practice—which often prepped up the infant to formula feeding that can be very costly. And very deadly. Had hospital-born infants been calves, all it would take is a week for them to turn up dead, succumbing to the onslaught of disease—that’s how vital colostrum is, even to the bovine species.

Law enforcement is not too strict. Legal protection for newborn Filipinos isn’t all-encompassing. And no top honcho of any health care establishment has been thrown the books or thrown behind bars.

The criminal leniency may account for over 16,000 deaths of under-five children yearly that could have been prevented with “(1) initiation of exclusive breastfeeding in the 1st hour of life, (2) exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding to at least two years.”

Survey records bear out non-compliance—“13% of infants were never breastfed making the Philippines the lowest in ever breastfed rates among 56 countries surveyed.”

Pump up irony like mom’s mammary: “39% of infants are using formula in their first 12 months of life.”

Nearly 30% of formula users belong to hard-up families living on less than P100 a day, survey findings show.

Based on 2003 prices, P21.3 billion is coughed up to buy formula—a Filipino family spends an average P2,000 monthly for the product. For a family of five subsisting on a minimum wage, that means almost 30% of the net income goes to infant formula.

Parents are wrung through a gauntlet of formula advertisements in various media as local ersatz milk manufacturers plunked down, say in 1006, P4.6 billion in advertising, double than what is spent in the United States.

For moms giving in to the ad barrage that means for their child as records show (1) 1.2 million more illness episodes (2) 10 million more days ill, (3)450,000 more health facility visits, and (4) 36,000 more infants hospitalized.

Various research findings show that “non-breastfed children have 14 times the risk of dying from diarrhea, 16.7 times increased risk of pneumonia, and 18 times the risk of dying from neonatal sepsis compared to the those exclusively breastfed.”

Such ailments perennially turn up in the top 10 leading causes of child deaths in the Philippines.

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