Editorial: Latch on

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Sunday, August 3, 2014


MEDIA scholars should evaluate the effect of media reports about the baby-taping incidents in a Cebu City hospital on the public perception and practice of breastfeeding.

Last May, the Cebu Puericulture Center and Maternity House drew the attention of the public and the investigation of authorities when photos were uploaded of newborns whose mouths were taped shut. The parents of two infants said that nurses taped pacifiers in place to stop them from crying.

Last June 30, a fact-finding committee composed of government representatives recommended the “filing of criminal, civil and administrative cases against the hospital “for failing “to observe the standard of care required of them,” reported Sun.Star Cebu’s Justin K. Vestil last July 1.

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While the hospital’s lawyer also sent last June 30 a copy of the “settlement of dispute” agreement to the Department of Health 7, which states that “the parties ascribe no fault or blame no one for the incident,” it is important to dwell on the effects the baby-gagging incident has on the public’s perception of child welfare and the role of institutions, parents and other stakeholders in implementing the country’s breastfeeding policy.

Standards

The “no-pacifier” rule is part of the standards of newborn care set by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization, noted the same Sun.Star Cebu report.

The Regional Subcommittee for the Welfare of Children (RSCWC) observed that, “The breastfeeding policy strictly prohibits the use of pacifiers or artificial teats whether the baby is premature or not.”

Newborn care standards should be set and inculcated in parents and other caregivers in hospitals, where childbirth occurs. The maintenance of these standards is carried on in communities and households by barangay health workers (BHWs), who roam the neighborhood, visit homes and engage those who otherwise would not have gone to the barangay health center.

In implementing the country’s breastfeeding policy, though, BHWs serving six communities in Cebu City noted in 2013 that some young mothers’ or couples’ preference for bottle- or milk-formula feeding is shaped by misconceptions of beauty, desirability and social mobility.

According to a two-part special report series, “Breast Wars: life saving with breastfeeding,” written by Mayette Q. Tabada and Cherry Ann T. Lim and published on May 20-21, 2013 in Sun.Star Cebu, some young mothers are anxious that nursing babies will take a toll on their looks and lessen their attractiveness to partners. Others consider buying expensive milk formula and branded feeding bottles proves they have the affluence to give the best to their child.

Culture

Thus, while policies, laws and implementing guidelines are in place to support breastfeeding from hospital to public areas and home, the information, education and communication (IEC) campaign should be sustained to create among the public a culture promoting genuine newborn care and rights.

The discussions that took place among citizens and Netizens in the baby-gagging cases showed high public consciousness of newborn rights and institutional accountability.

The momentum can be sustained by the mobilization of advocates this August, recognized around the world as Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

The growing number of breastfeeding groups, like LATCH Moms Cebu, spreads crucial information, shared experiences and support that will dispel biases against breastfeeding and promote this as the primary option for nourishing and bonding with one’s infant.

According to their Facebook page, LATCH Moms Cebu offers an avenue for expecting or nursing moms and their partners to discuss “L-actation, A-ttachment, T-raining, C-ounseling, H-elp”.

Last Aug. 2, the “Hakab Na” campaign gathered breastfeeding Pinays in five cities across the country, including Cebu City, for mass breastfeeding.

“Hakab Na” is the Philippine version of the “Big Latch On,” an international campaign to create and promote a culture of breastfeeding among women, families and children.

On Aug. 13, “Breastfeeding Uncovered 2014: Mission Possible” will be conducted in a private hospital in Cebu City. For a seminar fee, parents and health-care professionals can listen to Dr. Jack Newman talk about challenges in breastfeeding, such as poor weight gain and latching problems.

A breastfeeding photo exhibit will also be held at the 3rd level Rotunda of Ayala Center Cebu on Aug. 2-16, messaged Dr. Marini Suner Tabon-Esguerra, lactation specialist, on Facebook.

Breastfeeding Pinays, which counts 25,000 members, organized for the second year “Hakab Na.” Tabon-Esguerra said this year’s activity aims to surpass last year’s record of more than 225 mothers nursing their babies simultaneously in Manila, Cagayan de Oro and Davao. That’s good news for infants and families.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 04, 2014.

Opinion

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