Press Release
June 16, 2006

5th 'Bike for Hope' in Misamis Oriental

Senator Pia S. Cayetano will bring her breastfeeding advocacy to the doors of Mindanao as she visits Cagayan de Oro City's Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) on June 16.

Cayetano, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, will consult with administrators and staff of the regional medical center to get an update on their compliance with Republic Act 7600, also known as the "Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act of 1992."

She will also personally hand out breastfeeding pamphlets and inspect the hospital's facilities and services, particularly those devoted to maternal and child care.

The hospital visit kicks off the senator's activities in Misamis Oriental in line with the 5th 'Bike for Hope' from June 15-17. The three-day event, which includes breastfeeding seminars for community health workers and mothers, will culminate in a 100-kilometer bicycle 'advocacy ride' through Cagayan de Oro City and several municipalities to be led by Cayetano herself.

"One of the major advocacies of Bike for Hope is to educate and encourage Filipino mothers to return to the time-honored tradition of breastfeeding and appreciate its nurturing value," according to the senator, as she noted that the practice of breastfeeding has considerably declined in recent years.

Based on latest available figures, the duration of exclusive breastfeeding among Filipino mothers after giving birth has alarmingly declined from an average of 42 days in 1998 to just 24 days in 2003.

She noted that the average duration of exclusive breastfeeding among mothers in Northern Mindanao (Region X) at 54 days is relatively higherbut still falls way below recommended international standards.

"Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund prescribe six months, or about 180 days of exclusive and continuous breastfeeding for optimal infant development up to 2 years and beyond. Unfortunately, we're currently way below that standard," she said.

Studies prove that breast milk provides complete infant nutrition while bottle-fed infants are more prone to diarrhea and respiratory diseases. Despite this, more mothers choose to give infant formula to their newborn.

"This just shows that Filipino mothers generally lack information on the benefits of breastfeeding, and are not provided with a community support system for long-term breastfeeding, forcing many to resort to infant formula once they are discharged from the hospital after giving birth."

This problem may soon be addressed by a proposed measure that Cayetano is set to sponsor when the Third Regular Session begins in July. Senate Bill 1767 seeks to establish lactation stations in the workplace where nursing female employees would be able to express breastmilk for their babies.

The bill will also address lack of education and information on breastfeeding and revisit advertisement regulations for infant formula.

"Breastfeeding not only means healthier babies and mothers. It also means more savings and purchasing power for every household because the money to be spent on infant milk formula will be devoted instead to basic needs like food and education."

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