October 14, 2011
Yesterday we had a press conference for the launch of a new breastfeeding campaign that UNICEF is supporting. As Special Advocate for Children of UNICEF, I participated in the Beauty, Brains & Breastfeeding billboard project. The message is, “smart, glamorous and hardworking women breastfeed.” We are doing this because only 34% of mothers in the Philippines practice exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of their babies. Based on UNICEF statistics, nearly half of all mothers in the country depend on artificial milk in varying degrees.
There will be five billboards - three along MIA Road in Pasay City which will be launched
on October 14 when the weather lets up; one in Philcoa, Quezon City; and one on the DILG Building in EDSA. A few more billboards will be up soon with sites currently in negotiation. The photos were shot by Raymund Isaac. Our clothes were provided by my good friends – K&Company, Divine Lee’s Luca and Gingersnaps.
Beauty, Brains and Breastfeeding would like to correct several misconceptions which discourage mothers with infants and young children to breastfeed — main hurdles to having all Filipino newborns properly breastfed:
• exclusive breastfeeding in the formative first six months of an infant is NOT a hindrance to a mother’s professional or personal goals;
• exclusive breastfeeding is a commitment to give one’s child with life-nourishing food and a good start in life; to think of breastfeeding as only for the poor should be dismissed immediately;
• continued breastfeeding DOES NOT cause a woman’s breasts to deform, sag or make her look haggard and unattractive; and
• the act of breastfeeding in public places is not an act shame and therefore should be encouraged.
No matter the prevailing conditions and norms in any society, nothing best embodies the miraculous ties between mother and child than the act of breastfeeding.
I committed myself to breastfeeding each kid for at least the same amount of time, if not longer. I did not want to deal with any issues like so and so was breastfed longer. Besides I really enjoyed the whole process. I’ve said it many times, breastfeeding is love. It was the time I felt most beautiful and powerful as a woman. My body was giving life and nourishment to my children, and I knew they were getting nothing but the best.
I’ve gone on and on about the beauty and health benefits of breastfeeding but it was only during my work with UNICEF that I got to know the issues on a deeper and more important level – that exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months is a significant “mechanism” to lower infant mortality rates globally. I have seen this firsthand. During my last UNICEF mission to the ARMM in Maguindanao, I saw babies that had severe acute malnutrition. They were being treated through UNICEF’s community based management for acute malnutrition. One of the factors why the babies got severe acute malnutrition, in addition to contracting multiple diseases, was dehydration due to diarrhea caused by formula milk plus dirty water… formula they acquired from donations at a relief centre. There are very strict guidelines discouraging donations of formula milk during emergencies. And this is why I vowed to not endorse formula milk. I’ve been used and misled once before. Now I know better.
It is also timely to mention that I cried over (spilled) spoiled milk before. During emergencies like Milenyo and Ondoy when we had to leave our house due to extended black outs, my stored milk thawed and went bad. But I realized that there’s no need for stored milk, noneed for anything except me and my direct feeding. We are still expecting 10 more storms. There will be floods and brown outs. I hope all moms of newborns choose to breastfeed.
Going back to the message of the billboards… Iza is a busy working mom. She’s a social entrepreneur and she’s very committed to her work as a breastfeeding advocate. She is also working with labour groups and corporations to help give support to breastfeeding in the workplace. Patricia Hizon, a sportscaster and TV host, breastfed her sons with the involvement and support of her husband Vince Hizon. We all want to share the same message – that breastfeeding can be done no matter how busy you are. You can look good while doing it. And you will give your kids the best start in life.
The billboards are supposed to be up today in MIA Road. I’ll take a peek this weekend. The billboards will be up after the current storm signals stabilize.
I’d love to hear your thoughts….