|3,738 mothers in Manila top Guinness breastfeeding record
Simultaneous breastfeeding started out as a protest that mothers resort to when they are admonished not to
breastfeed in public. The act's popularity rose to become a form of celebration during occasions like the World Breastfeeding Week.
The current Guinness World Record (GWR) holder is the City of Berkley Women Infants Children Program in California when they organized 1,130 mothers in 03 August 2002. The City of Manila challenged it and will now wait for the GWR's official confirmation based on documentation that the organizers will submit to prove the claim.
Two of the only three International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) in the Philippines, Children for Breastfeeding Director Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, MD, FPDS, RPh, IBCLC and Nurturers of the Earth Director Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC spearheaded the breaking of the Guinness World Record on Simultaneous Breastfeeding. Being members of World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and the International Babyfood Action Network, the two IBCLCs also ensured that milk companies and manufacturers of babyfood will be out of the affair.
"We have always upheld the international standard of ethics that breastfeeding promotion, protection and support should be free from milk companies' involvement." Castillo explained.
"Guinness World Records specified a set of guidelines to break the record. It included the prohibition of bottles, teats and pacifiers during the attempt. Our members ensured this strictly through a rigorous inspection of bags during the affair," Esguerra said.
According to WHO Philippines, annually, 16,000 Filipino children die because of bottle-feeding and many others suffer from allergies and long-term or serious illnesses like juvenile hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and premature puberty because of the formula milk menace.
"Only .5% of mothers in Metro Manila are exclusively breastfeeding their children that is why we want to send a clear message to mothers that they should breastfeed exclusively and breastfeed beyond two years old," Castillo pointed out.
It all started in February 2005, when UNICEF Country Representative Dr. Nicholas Alipui overheard Sec. Ignacio Bunye over the radio that the number one consumer commodity in Metro Manila is formula milk. Aware of the deaths and diseases associated with bottle-feeding, he issued a plea to concerned citizens to avert this trend and called the formula milk menace a "death sentence to Filipino children." The two new IBCLCs immediately responded to his call. They presented their credentials to Dr. Alipui and buckled down to work.
"There are so many ideas swimming in our minds and we tried to present it to several people in power. But it was Dr. Alipui who truly listened to us." Andaya-Castillo said. Since 1996, she has helped hundreds of mothers breastfeed their babies and has been monitoring the violations of milk companies and medical professionals against the laws that protect breastfeeding.
Dr. Henares-Esguerra sought the help of her father Hilarion "Larry" Henares, a presidential consultant on national affairs who joined the team. With his typical acerbic humor, he called the team "the Trinity of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Bones" and brought the issue to the portals of power: a Senate Hearing, two preparatory meetings with the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the Cabinet meeting that tackled infant and young child feeding and a dinner in Malacanang, (the President' official Residence) of the Henares family with the President. They also asserted their right to participate in two public hearings and the meetings of the Technical Working Group organized by DOH.
With their perseverance, they were able to convince President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare August 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) last August 1, 2005 before a record-breaking crowd in Malacanang that also broke many protocols in the palace to let them in.
The Presidential Proclamation specified that the organizers of World Breastfeeding Week celebration from hereon will follow the international standards of ethics set forth by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the initiator of the celebration observed in 120 countries. WABA encourages all organizers of WBW not to co-sponsor any activity with milk companies and other babyfood products.
During the preparations for the Malacanang event, the team approached Mayor Lito Atienza and challenged him to break the Guinness World Record on Simultaneous Breastfeeding. Without any hesitation, the Mayor who is known for his pro-life advocacy promised the crowd and the President that he will break the record.
"Many mothers were wearing house dresses and slippers and fathers were in maong pants when they arrived at the gates of Malacanang. The guards promptly refused entry but I cajoled them and asked the crowd to pray with me. I told the guards that the affair was for them and he let them in," Dr. Henares-Esguerra proudly recalled.
The team also launched SM Megamall as the first breastfeeding-friendly mall and the SM Supermalls management promised the establishment of breastfeeding stations at all SM branches within this year. "We are aiming for projects with national impact. We feel that this is an emergency situation considering the annual deaths of 16,000 Filipino children because of bottle-feeding," Dr. Esguerra emphasized.
The IBCLCs made sure that mothers who are breastfeeding four and five year old kids were breastfeeding onstage when the countdown began. They also gave an award to the oldest breastfeeding mom, Rosanna Robles who at the age of 51 is still breastfeeding her 5-year old daughter. They challenged the crowd if there is an older breastfeeding mother than Robles so they can also give an award to her but she remained unbeaten.
A mother who breastfed while pregnant and mothers who pursued breastfeeding while working outside the house were interviewed during the affair to debunk breastfeeding myths. There was also a parade of slings to popularize its use as an aid to breastfeeding.
Before the event, the IBCLCs gave orientation seminars to the health workers of the City emphasizing the core messages and the objectives of the affair. They also ensured that all give-aways for the participants will not contain any product of milk companies by explaining it though letters and dialogues to the City employees and the Mayor himself.
"During the program and the press conference, we explained to mothers that there is an international boycott of Nestle products and we also exposed the industrial errors especially the 30 million liter contamination that happened in Europe last year. We warned them of accepting free milk donations." Castillo said.
In a public hearing at the Committee on Trade and Industry at the Congress, the team also thwarted the milk companies' efforts to block a powerful set of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) from being implemented. The IRR will not allow advertisements that undermine breastfeeding among others and will exact grave penalties to violators.
Under the support of UNICEF, the team is also currently holding advocacy workshops on the laws that protect breastfeeding. "We will soon launch a breastfeeding-friendly restaurant as we continue to hold trainings and classes for parents. We are also gearing for a public hearing on the health claims of milk companies that our Bureau of Food and Drug will hold on May 19 upon the team's insistence," Henares-Esguerra shares with anticipation.
Nurture our Children!
Nurture the Earth!
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants:
Dr. Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, RPh, MD, FPDS, IBCLC
Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC
Tel: 632-271-0954 and 632-444-4716
"Mobilizing children to promote earth-friendly parenting"
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