MANILA, Philippines, 16 May 2006 – Almost 4,000 mothers in the Philippines – along with their babies – have helped set a new world record for simultaneous breast-feeding. It easily beat the previous Guinness World Record set by 1,135 women in Berkeley, California.
“The malnutrition situation in the Philippines is devastating,” said UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Nicholas K. Alipui. “The situation can be reversed with simple but effective measures. The effort to break the Guinness World Record is one such measure.”
Early on the morning of 4 May, wave upon wave of mothers from different districts of Manila converged on the San Andres Sports Complex carrying their babies. Once all 3,738 women had been registered, Manila Mayor Jose ‘Lito’ Atienza gave the go-ahead for the record attempt to begin.
The event, which required participants to breastfeed their babies for one minute, was organized by the City of Manila, Children for Breastfeeding (an organization that promotes family support for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers) and the Department of Health, with support from UNICEF.
“Gatherings such as this are important. It brings into the consciousness of the general public the obvious but often neglected advantages of breastfeeding,” said Department of Health Secretary, Francisco T. Duque.Rosanna Robles, 51, the oldest mother at the event, said that all three of her daughters had been breastfed. “I breastfed my eldest daughter until she was three years old. Nobody told me to do it. I just felt it was the right thing to do. I never used milk formula,” Ms. Robles said. Her eldest daughter, who is now 26, has an eight-month-old child who is likewise breastfed.
A form of protest
“This is also a form of protest against false advertisements of milk companies influencing mothers to think that their product is similar to breast milk,” said the Director of the non-governmental organization Children for Breastfeeding, Dr. Elvira Henares-Esguerra.
Less than a third of women in the Philippines exclusively breastfeed but the government hopes to reach the Millenium Development Goal of 65 percent by 2015.
Dr. Alipui said that UNICEF will be working with the national government, local government authorities and NGOs organizations to raise the level of breastfeeding to at least 50 or 60 per cent. “Even then it would not be sufficient, but it would help us begin to transform and reverse the malnutrition problem in the country,” he said.