DOH releases guidelines for physicians on breastfeeding

May 21, 2010 8:18 pm 

MANILA, May 21 — In line with its mission to promote breastfeeding among all Filipino mothers, the Department of Health (DOH) recently released a guideline for physicians on the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding.

“The DOH and its partners from international organizations and local medical specialty and affiliate societies are committed to the promotion, protection and support for breastfeeding,” said Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

“However, the most recent statistics show that the decline in breastfeeding rates continues, reflecting an urgent need for strong and concerted action,” Cabral added.

The 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey revealed that among infants less than two months, only 50 percent are exclusively breastfed, while 8 percent are never breastfed at all. Of these, only 22.6 percent continue to be exclusively breastfed under 6 months of age.

Children born at home and delivered with the assistance of a traditional birth attendant or "hilot" are more likely to be breastfed within the first hour of birth than those born in a health facility and delivered with the assistance of a health professional.

“These alarmingly low breastfeeding rates persist, and yet up to 16,000 infant deaths yearly could be prevented only if breastfeeding is more widely practiced,” noted the health chief.

Secretary Cabral further said that physicians have an indispensable role to play in efforts to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding, rationalizing the release of the subject guidelines.

Among the responsibilities of all physicians under the guidelines are:

—> Counsel pregnant women on the merits of breastfeeding starting at the first encounter, and reinforced with every subsequent visit;

—> Prescribe non-human milk only when there are valid medical reasons and with information on the inherent hazards and risks of non-human milk;

—> Strongly advocate for the adoption of essential newborn care, rooming-in and breastfeeding standards as mandated by law.

The guidelines also prohibit physicians from:

—> Accepting gifts or any sort of material or financial inducements from manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes and other products covered by the Milk Code;

—> Accepting samples of non-human milk or similar products unless approved by the DOH, nor giving out samples or gifts of any sort coming from milk companies to pregnant women, mothers, and members of their families;

—> Displaying, promoting or distributing non-human milk and other breastmilk substitutes in their offices or clinics.

“Our legal basis for the issuance of these guidelines is the plethora of laws that promote breastfeeding including the Milk Code of the Philippines (EO No. 51) and its implementing rules & regulations (AO No. 2006-0012), the Rooming-in and Breastfeeding Act of 1992 (RA 7600) and its implementing rules & regulations, the National Policies on Young Child Feeding (AO No. 2005-0014), and the New Policies and Protocol on Essential Newborn Care (AO No. 2009-0025),” Cabral said.

“Physicians must consult these issuances as well, to get a clearer picture of the standards they must practice and uphold, in support of our breastfeeding advocacy,” she stressed further.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself received a copy of the DOH Guidelines as well as a Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippine Council for Health Research & Development, the Department of Science & Technology, and Children for Breastfeeding, Inc., a non-government organization, in ceremonies held at the Malacañang Palace on May 17. (PNA) LOR/PR/utb

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