Plan International cited data from the 2011 study by the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute that showed a 10% increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates from 35.9% in 2008 to 46.7% in 2011.
In the same period there was a 16% decrease in the use of artificial milks with complementary foods from 55.4% to 39.4%.
“The bill narrows the application of the Milk Code only to artificial feeding products [such as formula milk] for the age group of 0 to six months instead of the current 0 to 36 months,” the statement said.
Plan added the bill wrongly lifts all restrictions on donations of breast milk substitutes in times of emergency and makes lactation breaks for breastfeeding mothers at work unpaid.
Infant formula is not the answer
It said breastmilk was the preferred form of milk from a nutritional and safety point of view, not to mention mother-infant bonding.
“While infant formula milk has been adjusted so that it is more like human milk, it is far from perfect for babies. The quality of protein in the animal milk can never equal the quality of protein in breastmilk,” the organisation said.
“The protein in animal milk is difficult for a baby’s stomach to digest and this can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, rashes and other illnesses,” it added.
Breastmilk is also safer, especially in conditions where safe water and sanitation are not guaranteed, the organisation said, pointing to conditions in most of Philippines.
“Mothers who lack food or who are malnourished can still breastfeed adequately. Adequate fluids and extra food for the mother will help protect their health and well-being,” the organisation said.