AS the prohibition on the enforcement of stricter rules on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes remains in force, breastfeeding advocates begin a media battle for the hearts and minds of Filipino mothers.

Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 March 2007Today, at least one major newspaper carries an advertorial extolling the virtues of breastfeeding. Paid for by Unicef, World Health Organization, and the Infant Feeding Action Coalition of Canada — the ad lists down what the groups say are the health risks for women who do not breastfeed.

Women who do not breastfeed exclusively and use infant formulas, says the ad, face increased risk of serious illnesses like breast and ovarian cancer.

The Supreme Court last week turned down an appeal from health officials to implement a set of revised rules for Executive Order 51, or the Milk Code of 1986. The law governs the marketing of breast-milk substitutes and penalizes what government says are attempts to “undermine” the culture of breastfeeding.

But, as PCIJ writes in a report last year, a mother’s decision whether or not to breastfeed may not be a simple function of how aggressive the marketing is for infant formula.

(View a larger image of the ad here.)

The advertorial says the enumerated health risks are only “some” of the examples “from hundreds of scientific studies.”

Increased risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer in mothers. The innate immune system in breastmilk is complex and likely provides protection for maternal breast tissue and the digestive tract of newborns.

Increased risk of being overweight. Each month of breastfeeding brought an average reduction of 0.44 kg in weight.

Increased risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. Not breastfeeding has been associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer. Women who breastfeed longer and breastfed more children had lower risk of ovarian cancer.

Increased risk of osteoporosis. Women with many children and long total period of breastfeeding have similar or higher bone mineral density and similar or lower fracture risk that their peers who have not given birth and breastfed.

Reduced natural birth spacing. Mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding had a longer period of no menstruation by six months after childbirth, than those who were not. None of the breastfeeding mothers became pregnant six months postpartum.

Increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Breastfeeding for more than 12 months reduced women’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis. The shorter the length of breastfeeding, the higher the women’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Increased stress and anxiety. Formula feeding mothers had less positive moods, reported fewer positive events, and perceived more stress than breastfeeders. Formula feeders also had more depression and anger than breastfeeding mothers.

Increased risk of developing diabetes. Each year of breastfeeding reduced the mother’s risk of diabetes by 15 percent. Thus, the shorter the breastfeeding, the higher the incidence of diabetes.

Comment Form