'More Pinoy mommies breastfeeding their babies'

Apparently, more Pinoy mommas are breastfeeding their babies.

Three international organizations have lauded the Philippines for a "significant increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates," even as they urged stakeholders to "continue to intensify the campaign to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in order to gain more grounds."

The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in a statement on Wednesday highlighted recent figures reported by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), which showed an increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates to 47 percent in 2011 from 36 percent in 2008.

The portion of the population of mothers who initiate breastfeeding within one hour of delivery also increased as per data, to 52 percent in 2011 from 32 percent in 2008.

"The increase in breastfeeding rates takes us that much closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in child health," Soe Nyunt-U, WHO representative in the Philippines said in a statement.

"Breastfeeding can save the lives of both mothers and babies, this is one of the important interventions to reducing child mortality and improving maternal," he added.

For his part, UNICEF Representative Tomoo Hozumi, said the improved figures reflects "cooperation and commitment" from different sectors.

"What we have seen in recent years is a coming together of many different partners from the government, political leaders, NGOs, other civil society organizations and media to support these efforts. This is the key to sustained improvements in breastfeeding and ultimately in physical and mental development of children in the Philippines," Hozumi said.

The groups noted, however that the are still "substantial disparities in exclusive breastfeeding rates within the Philippines" with some areas posting exclusive breastfeeding rates as low as 27 percent.

"Further efforts will be needed to increase the exclusive breastfeeding to be truly at the universal level, which will have a significant impact on the nutritional status of children in the Philippines," they said.

A major challenge in promoting breastfeeding, especially for working women, however remains.

"Working women often feel the pressure of immediately reporting back to work and giving up breastfeeding for fear of losing their job or returning to work with lower pay or position," ILO Country Director for the Philippines Lawrence Jeff Johnson said in the statement.

Johnson urged workplaces to "provide space and time for mothers to continue breastfeeding, profit in terms of increased productivity, reduced parental absence, lower healthcare costs, higher rate of return to work, increased staff loyalty and reduced training budget."

The groups also pushed for "a strong policy and legal framework" for breasfeeding, including the regulation of marketing for breastmilk substitutes.

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