Press Release
August 9, 2006

Cayetano pushes for right of women to breastfeed
in the workplace, public places

Breastfeeding stations similar to those that have been pioneered in big shopping malls in Metro Manila will soon rise in parks, public markets, schools, airports, bus terminals and light rail train stations around the country.

Similarly, working mothers who have just given birth need not give up breastfeeding once they report back to work because lactation stations will be readily accessible in government and private offices.

Both will be possible under the proposed "Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2006," which Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for Senate approval.

The substitute measure is based on Senate Bill 1767, originally authored by Sen. Juan Flavier, and will be taken up on second reading this August in observation of National Breastfeeding Month.

Patterned after successful breastfeeding legislations in other countries, the bill mandates the establishment of lactation stations in the workplace and public places and the integration of breastfeeding education into the school curricula. Its primary objective is to revive the practice of breastfeeding which has declined alarmingly in recent years.

The National Demographic Survey reports that the average duration of exclusive breastfeeding among Filipino mothers is now down to 0.8 month, or only about 24 days, which the senator noted is way below the international standard of the World Health Organization and Unicef recommending at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding to ensure optimal infant development.

"This measure seeks to liberate millions of mothers who resort to commercial infant formula due to lack of information on the benefits of breastmilk, and because support systems are not in place in the community that otherwise would have encouraged them to breastfeed," explained Cayetano, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

She said studies indicate a strong link between maternal employment and early cessation of breastfeeding. "This is because working mothers face many challenges including lack of break time, inadequate facilities for pumping and storing milk, and lack of support from employers, to name a few."

Women workers comprise 13.2 million or 39% of the country's total labor force, while about half of employed women who get pregnant return to work by the time their children are two months old, she added.

Under the bill, the lactation station should be a private, well-ventilated and adequately equipped room or area where nursing mothers can breastfeed or express their milk. It should have a lavatory, unless there is an easily accessible lavatory nearby, cooling facilities for storing breastmilk, and electrical outlets for breast pumps.

Employers will be required to give reasonable time for their nursing female employees during work hours to breastfeed or express their milk in the lactation station. As a form of incentive, expenses incurred by employers in putting up the facility are tax-deductible.

"With this bill, we will be able to protect the right of women to breastfeed and to gainful employment, while also securing the right of children to a healthy life," she concluded.

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