The Department of Health (DOH) and World Vision Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement in which the two bodies would work together to monitor local government unit compliance with the "Milk Code".
The Milk Code included both Executive Order No. 51 and Republic Act No. 10028 or the “National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplements and Related Products."
Both EO 51 and RA 10028 encouraged workplaces and communities to provide nursing mothers access to lactation stations and support to help them breastfeed up to two years or beyond.
"The implementation of the Milk Code has really been a challenge in this country," Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said during the signing ceremony at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City on Friday.
The DOH and World Vision monitoring effort will be enacted through a joint project - the Mother-Baby Friendly Philippines (MBFP or just MBF).
The compliance monitoring project has three platforms: an Android and iOS-based app, the MBF website, and the MBFP hotline.
The website boasts a quick and simple navigation, useful hotlines, and a user-friendly reporting scheme in addition to breastfeeding resources.
Users of the apps are afforded the same features with a unique, focused UI and with a texting mechanism can be used by anyone.
Malabon, Manila, and Quezon City are the pilot sites for the project, which is rooted in World Vision's Crowd-Based Monitoring of Milk Code Compliance (CMMCC) project.
Breastfeeding is one of the DOH's main advocacies and the first adopted by Ubial, as the first program she handled in her career was a breastfeeding program in 1989.
"On June 20 (1989), I was sent to Fabella Memorial Hospital for my 11-day training on mother-baby friendly hospital and lactation management, education training," Ubial recalled.
"Something we make a mainstream and a norm in Philippine society is breastfeeding our babies, our children is actually, supposed to be what comes natural and what should be practiced," she continued.
Don't shame, don't force
As much as the government, health institutions, and moms promote breastfeeding as the "gold standard" for infant health, breastfeeding advocate Christine Bersonala-Babao said badgering mothers would not work.
"Do not intimidate the mothers," Babao advised. "Sasabihin mo lang in a very [calm] way na, 'Uy, ito yung benefits sa akin.' Pero hindi mo siya pipilitin, 'wag mo ifo-force."
Babao said that it was very difficult to convince people at the "grassroots level" of the benefits of breastfeeding, as they were more concerned with putting food on the table, or else they would rather opt for the supposed convenience of formulas.
Aside from monitoring, MBF would also promote breastfeeding through testimonies from breastfeeding moms by infographics.
Ubial hoped that the initiative could be the start of better breastfeeding rates in the country, which remained abysmal, according to 2015 data, as "only 34% of Filipino infants younger than six months are exclusively breastfed."
"All of us need to work together in synchronizing our acts to realize our shared vision," Ubial urged. —GMA News