Friday, May 25, 2007

Boycot Nestle? Count us IN!

It's official: this Rodrigo family is boycotting Nestle.

When I joined UNICEF 13 years ago, I knew that Nestle was taboo, a company that UNICEF was never to work with or be associated with or even be said in the same breath. But even when I became a breastfeeding mother and a staunch breastfeeding advocate and somewhat of a breastfeeding counsellor, I never had a personal beef with Nestle. Until now.

So what happened? I had brought home a film from the office entitled, "Formula Fix." It's a 1989 report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on how milk companies in Pakistan and the Philippines were violating the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. I had begun watching the film in the office, but had gotten very upset to the point of crying in my cubicle. So at 2 am this morning, when my husband and I woke up hungry (I nurse round-the-clock; I don't know what his excuse is), we decided to watch it.

It is infuriating. Infant formula companies are intentionally marketing their products to the poorest of the poor. Families whom they know do not have access to clean water, do not have the resources to ensure that feeding bottles and nipples are sterilized, and do not have the money to keep buying the infant formula. They were doing it in the 80's and they're still doing it now. See for yourself; watch our latest documentary, "Formula for Disaster", now in YouTube:

The results are babies so weak, ill and malnourished that they can barely cry. They look like old men, all wrinkled up and thin. In the ABC report, I watched one baby die after suffering from repeated diarrhea. I looked at those babies and thought of Anton, with his chubby cheeks and his body so full of heft. Anton is so heavy I can no longer rock him to sleep. Those babies are a far cry from him and I could not help but mourn for all the babies who suffer, sometimes to the point of death, just because they did not get Mommy's milk. None of our children had ever had ear infections. My two older children only experienced diarrhea when they were already school-aged, and so far only once each.

So this morning, my husband announced to the kids: "Did you see the pack of Baby Ruth's in the refrigerator? Enjoy them now because this is the last time we're buying them. Starting today, we are boycotting Nestle."

If you want to learn more, please visit the website of Baby Milk Action. They have a page dedicated to the "fight for the breast" in the Philippines:

I urge you to sign the online petitions as well. In June, the Department of Health (DOH) will have its last chance to implement tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of infant formula. DOH will be presenting its oral arguments before the Supreme Court. At the same time, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), who has challenged DOH's policies, will also be presenting in court. The Supreme Court suspended DOH's regulations because PHAP claimed that their members would lose billions of pesos if their marketing activities were restricted.

So the question is: which do we protect, corporate profits or children's lives?

What is YOUR choice?

* Graphic donated by Rebecca Clark to Baby Milk Action

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Formula for Disaster" is now on YouTube!

Watch it at:

Make sure to watch all of the FIVE parts and let us know what you think!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Long-term effects of breastfeeding

Our friend, Alessandro Iellamo, of WHO Regional Office in Manila, Philippines, shared with us a recently published study by WHO entitled, "Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding."
The report looked at studies on the long-term effects of breastfeeding from MEDLINE and Scientific Citation Index databases, to assess if breastfeeding had long-term effects on a person's blood pressure, diabetes and related indicators, serum cholesterol, overweight and obesity, and intellectual performance.

The study concluded that:

The available evidence suggests that breastfeeding may have long-term benefits. Subjects who were breastfed experienced lower mean blood pressure and total cholesterol, as well as higher performance on intelligence tests. Furthermore, the prevalence of overweight/obesity and type-2 diabetes was lower among breastfed subjects. All effects were statistically significant, but for some outcomes their magnitude was relatively modest.

More specifically, the studies reviewed showed the following effects:
  • on blood pressure: Among studies that controlled for socioeconomic and demographic variables, systolic blood pressure was lower among breastfed subjects by 0.69-1.7, and diastolic blood pressure was lower by 0.10-1.12.
  • on serum cholesterol: Breastfed subjects had lower mean total cholesterol in adulthood, by 0.06 - 0.30 mmol/L. For children and adolescents, the association was not statistically significant.
  • on overweight and obesity: Breastfed individuals were 72-84% less likely to be overweight and/or obese.
  • on type-2 diabetes: Breastfed subjects were 45-89% less likely to present type-2 diabetes
  • on intelligence and schooling: Intelligence scores of breastfed subjects were 2.97-6.92 points higher

The study also compared the magnitude of the effects of breastfeeding with the effects of other public health interventions:

For blood pressure, the effect of breastfeeding was smaller than those derived from other public health interventions targeted at adults, such as dietary advice, physical activity, salt restriction, and multiple risk factor interventions. On the other hand, for total cholesterol among adutls, the magnitude of the breastfeeding effect was similar to that of dietary advice in adulthood. Similarly, for the prevention of type-2 diabetes, the magnitude was similar to that of diet and physical activity. Concerning obesity, whereas Summerbell et al (184) reported that combined dietary education and physical activity interventions were not effective in reducing childhood obesity and overweight, we noticed that breastfeeding was associated with a 22% reduction in the prevalence of overweight/obesity.

The study can be downloaded at:

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Philippines goes for another world record on breastfeeding

The Philippines is after another Guinness World Record on Breastfeeding, this time for the most number of mothers simultaneously breastfeeding in MULTIPLE sites. Last year, the City of Manila, Department of Health, Children for Breastfeeding, and UNICEF Philippines organised a record-breaking event that garnered for the country the Guinness World Record on Simultaneous Breastfeeding in a single site.

Last May 2, thousands of mothers in various day care centres breastfed their babies from 10:00 to 10:01 am. An estimated 4,000 mothers and their babies in over 100 sites all over the Philippines joined in the event. This time, Children for Breastfeeding again organised the event, in cooperation with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and TESDA.
Some quotable quotes:
"Our event is a prayer for those children who died as well as for those suffering because of [breastfmilk substitutes]."
Nona Andaya-Castillo, organizer, IBCLC
"Stop using formula milk. A baby deserves his mother's milk."
Dr. Francisco Duque III, Secretary of Health
"Unfortunately, through advertising, most Filipino mothers now believe that artificial forms of foods for babies are actually better than breastmilk."
Mr. Dale Rutstein, Communication Chief, UNICEF
We'll know in a few weeks if the Philippines has successfully obtained another Guinness World Record. If only we could get the world record for exclusively breastfeeding for six months, and not just for one minute!
Photo: Front-page article printed on The Philipine Daily Inquirer on 3 May 2007.