Breastfeeding advocates over the weekend pushed for the passage of a law that will increase the period of maternity leave from 60 days to 100 days.
They said the reason why breastfeeding rates remain low is because many mothers have to go back to work two months after delivery.
Dr. Cristina Bernardo noted that the breastfeeding rate in the country for children less than six months old remains at 36 percent.
At the launch of “Feel Free to Breastfeed” campaign at SM Aura in Taguig City, Bernardo explained that if mothers are allowed to stay with their children for a longer period of time, exclusive breastfeeding will be more successful.
“We have been pushing for the passage of the Expanded Maternity Leave bill because we believe that the key to successful breastfeeding is to give mothers the time to be with their babies longer. Many mothers discontinue exclusive breastfeeding when they return to work after the allowable 60 days,” she said.
Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has one of the lowest maternity leave period.
Vietnam provides 120 to 180 days of maternity leave while Singapore gives 112 days.
Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Lao PDR have 84 days of maternity leave.
Bernardo also encouraged pregnant women to seek the support of lactation experts and breastfeeding advocates to guide them through the process of breastfeeding.
“We have a lot of support groups now because breastfeeding is really a challenge. There are also many medical practitioners now as well as hospitals that are actively pushing for exclusive breastfeeding that they can also seek out to guide them through the journey,” the doctor said.
During the event, which was co-sponsored by gobreastfeeding.com, Lactation Attachment Training Counseling and Help (LATCH), La Leche Philippines, and SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Inc., a photo exhibit featuring mothers breastfeeding their children were also unveiled.
Kate Delos Reyes, creator of gobreastfeeding.com said she came up with the exhibit to show that there is nothing to be ashamed of when breastfeeding.
“It is the most natural way of feeding our children and there is no shame in that. In fact we should be encouraging women to make this a commitment when they have children because this is the best nourishment we can give them,” she said.
A breastfeeding pod was also unveiled to make breastfeeding more convenient.
Tomas Meneses, President of Metropolitan Pharmaceutical Products Inc., creator of the pod, said they wanted to show the future of breastfeeding in the Philippines.
“The pod, which can accommodate four women at the same time, can be placed anywhere in a public place because it is moveable and it gives mothers the privacy needed to breastfeed,” Meneses said.