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Monday, March 29, 2010

Expanded Breastfeeding Law - Part 2

The most lauded and welcome provisions of the law would be establishment of lactation rooms in all health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions and lactation periods for working nursing moms.
What I like about the provision on lactation room (the new Sec. 14) is that it clearly states that the lactation room should NOT be in a toilet. There are also minimum standards set such as availability of a sink, cooling facilities for storing milk, electrical outlets for pumps, tables and chairs. I wonder how our current lactation station will fare? It was formerly an executive toilet converted into a lactation station - with toilet bowls removed from the stalls and replaced with tables and chairs.

There is also an explicit statement that strict measures must be undertaken to prevent direct or indirect promotion marketing and/or sales of infant formula. Interestingly, as I previously mentioned, the law mandates that the State provide specific measures for mothers to continue expressing their milk and/or breastfeeding not only their infant but also their YOUNG CHILD (which is defined to be a child from 12-36months). This would mean even follow-on or toddler formulas should not be marketed or promoted! How I wish that this same coverage will also apply marketing and promotion in tri-media.
Meanwhile, the provision on lactation periods also appears to cover all bases. Aside from requiring additional time for milk expression (aside from meal times), walking time to the lactation stations are also considered as compensable working time. I'm quite happy with this provision particularly in our office where the existing lactation room is in the next building. Although there are plans to create another lactation room in my building, currently, all nursing pumping moms who wish to access the lactation room would need to take a 15 minute walk per way!
Under the law, “[t]he Department of Health is also tasked to develop and provide breastfeeding programs for working mothers whose employers are encouraged to avail of it as part of their human resource development programs.” I’ve previously worked on setting up a lactation program in our office and I’m glad to see that the RA 10028 establishes it as a MUST in HR programs.
Breastfeeding awareness and promotion is also emphasized in the law. The Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and TESDA are tasked to integrate breastfeeding education in the curricula – particularly in the medical and allied medical courses and the technical vocational education. This is a welcome addition – particularly in the medical field as my friends tell me that breastfeeding was only discussed for about 1 class hour when they were in medical schools. Breastfeeding Awareness Month is also made permanent every August, with comprehensive national public education and awareness programs to be undertaken to ensure meaningful observance of breastfeeding month.
Finally, unlike R.A. 7600, R.A. 10028 imposes sanctions on employers who do not provide lactation stations or lactation periods (unless they are exempted of course!). Under R.A. 7600, the Secretary of Health was merely empowered to impose sanctions. However, in R.A. 10028, imposition of sanctions for violations are explicitly stated, with penalties ranging from P50,000.00 (US$1,000) to P1,000,000.00 (US$20,000).
R.A. No. 10028 certainly has more teeth than its predecessor, R.A. 7600. So what’s next? The law will now be published in at least 2 major newspapers and will become 15 days after this publication. Then, we will have to wait for implementing rules and regulations to be issued by the Department of Health (the lead agency). Hopefully, the Department of Health will issue relevant and effective regulations and not watered down ones to ensure that the purpose for which this law was enacted will be fulfilled.

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