Philippines mothers go for mass breastfeeding record

Great news from the Philippines as 4,000 mothers take part in a mass breastfeeding event to break the Guinness world record for simultaneous breastfeeding – and to counter the aggressive marketing of the baby food industry.

This is a nice contrast to news in my blog yesterday that Nestlé is to link with the netmums website in the UK. Over 55,000 people are registered to netmums. Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK (and one of the four most boycotted in the world) and is desperate to improve its image by linking to good causes. Nestlé is targeted as it breaks the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods more than any other company.

In the Philippines Nestlé promotes its formula as containing ‘Brain Building Blocks’, suggesting it is important for brain and eye development.

Nestlé Nestogen formula 2006

Many mothers others have been taken in by such promotion.

This is the report from today’s Manila Standard Today and explains how mothers took part in this event to try to counter company promotion and raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding.

Click here for a larger version.

Media around the world has picked up on the story. A similar article appears in the International Herald Tribune at:

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Thousands of Philippine mothers breast-feed simultaneously

MANILA, Philippines: Thousands of Filipino mothers simultaneously breast-fed in day-care centers and hospitals Wednesday in a campaign to counter advertising claims that artificial baby foods are better than breast milk.

Breast-feeding advocates, social welfare officials and UNICEF spearheaded the event that hopes to set the first Guinness record for the most mothers breast-feeding in multiple locations.

A partial, unofficial count showed at least 3,608 mothers took part nationwide, according to the organizers' Web site and Felix Armenia, an official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

"We need every possible way to get the message out that Filipino mothers should breast-feed exclusively for six months and then continue to breast-feed for two years and beyond with household foods," said Dale Rutstein, UNICEF's spokesman.

"Unfortunately, through advertising, most Filipino mothers now believe that artificial forms of foods for babies are actually better than breast milk," he said.

A U.N. expert in February criticized milk companies and a Philippine pharmaceutical association for "deceptive and malicious" advertising practices aimed at selling infant formula in the country.

Jean Ziegler, the Geneva-based U.N. food rights expert, said aggressive marketing practices by milk companies were misleading the public by claiming that breast-feeding cannot be done by a majority of women and that their consumer products raise healthy, smart and happy babies.

In 2003, the World Health Organization estimated that 16,000 children below 5 died in the Philippines due to improper feeding practices, including use of infant formula.

Today, only 16 percent of Filipino children between 4 and 5 months old are exclusively breast-fed while 13 percent of mothers do not breast-feed at all, believing they do not have enough milk, according to UNICEF.

Last year, the city of Manila, in partnership with breast-feeding advocates, broke the Guinness record on simultaneous breast-feeding in a single site when 3,541 mothers gathered at a sports complex. That event broke the previous record of 1,130 mothers breast-feeding simultaneously in Berkeley, California, in 2002.
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Mothers are waiting to see whether moves by the pharmaceutical sector in the Philippines to block baby food marketing regulations will be upheld by the Supreme Court. For further details and to send a message of support see:

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