August is Breastfeeding Month

Privilege speech on Breastfeeding Month

For almost 20 years, I’ve delivered a breastfeeding speech in August. It is personal to me as a breastfeeding mom and the policy issue I’ve been advocating for years.

But, Mr. President, much has changed over the years, we’ve passed laws that promoted breastfeeding and raised awareness. Social media has also helped the younger generation of mothers and fathers proceed with breastfeeding and allowed it to be more acceptable, in the sense that many mothers would tend to be embarrassed to breastfeed outside the confines of their homes.

But I’ve also noticed, Mr. President, that there is a younger generation of fathers here in the Senate, including the Senate President, who are now role models of being supportive fathers and husbands. And I’d like to commend every single one of you. And there is a serious reason for that.

May I just say, the gentleman sitting beside me, Sen. Bato, is always the first one to raise his hand when I ask for volunteers… When I was a new senator, I was in my 30’s, a lot of gentlemen in the Senate laughed when I talked about breastfeeding. It is not a laughing matter but I had experienced that, and I was offended. But I was too young to speak up in a way to show that I was offended. So I proceeded with my job, and I am just so happy that I now work with younger or older gentlemen in the Senate..[who are] very supportive.

So why does breastfeeding need to be discussed on the Senate floor? Is it a subject of legislation? Yes it is, and I’ll get to that in a while. But considering that it is the best way to nourish an infant, and it is a natural immunization, more so it should be discussed because there are policy issues involved.

I would like to share my personal breastfeeding journey, and I hope that through my own experience, I can illustrate the challenges that a mother goes through just to breastfeed her baby, which should be the most natural thing in the world.

So when I was pregnant, Mr. President, I decided that I should buy my own books, because I did not grow up learning about it in school. Yes we had science education, but no one talked about the benefits of breastfeeding. Thankfully, I saw my mom breastfeed my brothers, but other than knowing that for a fact and having a general idea that it was good for infants, I didn’t know anything else. So I bought books, and books, and books.

Interestingly, the doctors did not tell me to breastfeed. My OB actually said to me, it’s up to me, pwedeng yes pwedeng no. She’s very nice, very senior, but she did not in any way tell me that there are so many benefits to it. Walang ganun, Mr. President. My pediatrician naman was very supportive.

So, I gave birth and breastfed on day one, and I breastfed throughout my entire 60-day maternity leave. As a runner, I had no guidance, I did not know how I could continue running while breastfeeding an infant, and wala pang cellphone noon, so what I would do is I would breastfeed and run for only 30 minutes because my baby might get hungry while I’m still out running and my mom would go crazy because we did not have infant formula in the house. I specifically did not purchase infant formula with the intention of sticking to my plan to breastfeed. So I did this on my own. Marami dyan, kapa-kapa lang.

Meanwhile, I lived in Taguig with my brother, Alan. It was a 2-bedroom house and my mom pretty much moved into Alan’s room and was his roommate during the entire time of my maternity leave and a few months after to help me take care of my baby because I was fully breastfeeding. So habang nag-aaral si Alan, ang mommy ko, pinapatulog niya ang baby ko, at binibigay sa akin kapag umiiyak na dahil ako naman ang magpapakain.

So after 60 days, I went back to work, and I was so blessed to work in a law office, Castillo-Laman Tan-Pantaleon law offices, where they were very supportive, considering that I was the first associate and probably the first employee to [breastfeed] while working.

So how did that work? I took phone calls on speaker phone while manually using a pump. Wala pa akong electric pump that time. I locked my door, I was blessed enough to have my own room, made sure the curtains were closed so that no one could see me, and alert my secretary that if my door is locked and my curtains are down, no one could come in but I could take phone calls. And then I proceeded to take the bottle of freshly pumped milk in the common freezer. But then shortly after, nangamoy ulam ang breastmilk na ibibigay ko sa baby ko. So after that, I decided to bring my own cooler [for storing breast milk]. So that was my life for a few months, into actually a whole year. I proudly breastfed my two daughters for a whole year.

After my second daughter, I had a baby who had multiple disabilities and had a cleft lip but I also breastfed him. I breastfed him, I pumped my milk and it was given to him through a tube, that went straight down to his stomach because my son could not digest milk or anything else.

So if anyone went through the difficulties of breastfeeding, I am sure a lot of mothers would have other stories to tell, but I had my own, which I wanted to spread into the record. Because this is what encouraged me to make legislation that would help mothers breastfeed as long as they wanted to.

So quick history: when I became a senator, there was already EO 51, this is known as the Philippine Milk Code, and what it does is it regulates the marketing of infant milk formula. I could leave it at that, but I would like to share the knowledge I learned in my first year in the Senate. This is so critical because dear colleagues. What happened in many hospitals, both government and private is that infant formula companies would give, even donate, their milk to hospitals for the newborns, and interfere with what should have been a natural breastfeeding process.

For the information of those who are not familiar, breastfeeding supply is based on supply and demand. The more the mother breastfeeds, the more milk she would produce. So kapag binigyan mo ng infant formula yan, mababawasan ang pagbigay niya ng sariling gatas, dahil may ibang napapagkunan and unti-unting mawawala ang kanyang breastmilk supply. So that is why kailangan ma-regulate ang marketing of infant formula.

The other thing is, dear colleagues, and I hope when you go home tonight, tomorrow, you look around, you’ll see a lot of advertisements of brands that claim na tatalino ang baby nila doon sa gatas na yun. Hindi po totoo yun. Ang totoo, tatalino ang baby niyo doon sa gatas ng ina. Yun ang pinaka-effective. Yun talaga yun. So we also want to ensure that the marketing also goes through the highest standard.

When I became a senator in 2004, there was also a 1992 law, RA No. 7600, or the Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act, which was adopted by no less than my idol, the late Senator Ed Angara. I was quite surprised because I expected maybe somebody like Sen. Flavier, but when I learned that it was Sen. Angara who passed it, it was very heartening for me that a male senator was actually the one who passed it. And having already given birth, I realized how important this is. This law basically says that in every hospital, immediately upon birth, kailangan itabi ang baby sa mommy para agad-agad maka-breastfeed. So this law was really a game changer, your honor.

And I also learned, I’d say parliamentary procedures through the late senator, because my bill was actually called by another name, and he very statesman-likely guided me in the amendments of my bill so that it would be simply an amendment to the existing RA 7600, which he authored. He just helped me make this bill flow better, a very important lesson as a new senator.

So that is the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (Ra 10028) that I already am talking about, which basically provided new features to the Rooming-In Act and under the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, I would say the critical features here are the setting up of lactation centers in public places and private and government offices. Again, this was, and I believe is still a game changer. When you look around, and those of you, for the gentlemen here with young wives, they can find a lactation or breastfeeding room in the malls. You can now find it in the airport. You can even find it in terminals for ferries, I actually saw a beautiful one in Bohol terminal years ago. So this makes it easier for mothers to continue breastfeeding.

I have had the experience of having to lock myself in a restroom that had its own door and about 20 people banging on the door to tell me to get out of the room because I was breastfeeding. And I understand, they needed to use the toilet, but during those days, there were no breastfeeding rooms, your honor, so this is just the kind of change that makes lives better for breastfeeding moms.

In addition, in the workplace, this law also provided for lactation breaks. It’s basically 40 minutes in addition to your usual meal breaks. I would’ve wanted more, I tried to push for more, but we tried to strike a balance with industry that obviously was hesitant to give more breaks to their staff. But now, it is a right of every breastfeeding mother to use an additional 40 minutes to pump her milk and take it home to her baby.

And at this point, I would like to point out that… we need to implement our laws in our own home. So the Senate actually has its own lactation room. We put this up I think around 2014-2015. It’s on the 5th floor and I’d like to include here my request that the GAD office place posters as they did before in the entrance to the Senate, so that resource persons, other persons who have business in the Senate, know that they can use that room. I’ve actually had the opportunity to be thanked by a resource person, this was pre-COVID, who was very happy to sit in on a 6-hour hearing. There was a lactation room that she could go to in the Senate.

And when I was a member of the House, I also worked with the Secretariat to put up a lactation room, and this was continued by Sen. Alan Cayetano when he was Speaker of the House.

It is very important for these kinds of laws to be supported and implemented on the ground. And I am very happy to see other examples, and the example I will give is, of course, Taguig. In Taguig City, the Taguig hospital has actually received, way back in 2013, almost 10 years ago, recognition as a mother- and baby-friendly hospital. And there is a 10-point requirement to be able to do that. I am sure there are others, I am just aware of the one in Taguig, and I hope DOH will make this public so that we can also acknowledge the other hospitals that are compliant. And for those that are not, may I call on the DOH to work closely with the city health officials of various cities and provinces to bring them up to speed.

The success of breastfeeding will really depend on the people who are surrounding the mother who can continue to encourage her to breastfeed. It is actually the cheapest way to nourish a baby and it is also their first immunization against various kinds of ailment. In fact, the leading cause of death for infant mortality, if I am not mistaken, is water-borne diseases, which is directly related to bottle feeding. Kasi kapag hinihugasan ang bote at hindi tama ang paghugas, doon nagkakaroon ng water-borne diseases, samantalang kapag nag-breastfeed, there is no contamination, nothing to wash, it is simply safer for babies.

And I also wanted to point out that in Taguig City, and I’ve also launched similar programs in Cebu and other parts of the country, there is a human milk bank. So in 2015, Taguig City established its human milk bank, which screens and then pasteurizes donors’ milk for families whose mothers cannot make milk available to their babies. So this is a big help for the babies whose mothers actually died or are sick, or are still recuperating, and also for babies who are left. We’ve already covered that in another law with Sen. Grace and Sen. Risa. So again, as an example, in Taguig City, 376 bottles of milk that were pumped by Taguig women were donated to infants in need after the Taal Volcano erupted.

And, even during the pandemic, there were also donated breast milk to infants in need. I’d like to emphasize this, since the evidence shows that according to WHO, [to he COVID-19 virus] was not detected in the breastmilk of any mother with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. They have not detected COVID-19 and it seems to be unlikely that COVID-19 would be transmitted through breastfeeding. So as we have known, but of course, it is better to be supported with evidence, breastfeeding even during the time of COVID is still very much recommended.

So Mr. President, I think I will end there. I just want to emphasize that I share my personal journey… Oh sorry, I knew I forgot something. There are a number of laws that also support breastfeeding. But what I want to emphasize is the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law. This is very crucial because from my own experience, and then from the experience of the women staff who work with me, I really saw with my own eyes that 60 days is not enough to leave your baby and go back to work especially if you are continuing to breastfeed. I really had a lot of problems going back to work, that included breast engorgement. This is very, very painful, fever, and it just very difficult. So with 105 days, we gave the mother an additional 45 days to continue breastfeeding, and when the mother goes back to work, her breastmilk supply is usually definitely much more established and it’s easier for her to continue breastfeeding.

So I end my privilege speech on this note and I thank the members of the Senate for the support that I have seen growing for breastfeeding throughout the years. Thank you, Mr. President. #

Senate breastfeeding room
File photo: The Senate breastfeeding room which was launched in 2014.

For breastfeeding moms

Are you a breastfeeding mom? Does your workplace encourage and support breastfeeding?

Here is a checklist of requirements in establishing a breastfeeding room or lactation station in places of work, as mandated by RA No. 10028, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act sponsored by Senator Pia S. Cayetano:

1) Accessible to breastfeeding women

2) Adequately provided with necessary equipment & facilities, including:

  • Lavatory for hand-washing
  • Refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk
  • Electrical outlets for breast pumps
  • A small table
  • Comfortable seats

3) Private, clean, sanitary, well ventilated, comfortable, and free from contaminants/hazardous substances

4) Not located in the toilet

5) Has no form of promotion, marketing, and/or sales of infant formula and/or breastmilk substitutes

A breastfeeding station in SM
Senator Pia Cayetano stands in front of a breastfeeding station, which became a common feature in malls and public places, following the passage of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
Checklist for a breastfeeding room
Here’s a checklist of requirements when establishing a breastfeeding room in the workplace under RA 10028, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
working moms
At the opening of the Senate’s breastfeeding room in 2015 with Senator Pia Cayetano and breastfeeding moms working at the Upper Chamber.

50 liters of breast milk from Taguig moms delivered to Batangas evacuation centers

The office of Senator Pia S. Cayetano and the Taguig city government formally turned over on Friday (Jan. 31) 50 liters of breast milk to the Batangas Medical Center (BATMC) for the benefit of babies affected by the Taal volcano eruption.

The milk donation was received by officials of BATC, which houses a human milk bank that stores breast milk for babies in need, including those staying in different evacuation centers across the province.

All 50.1 liters of breast milk donations were gathered and collected from nursing mothers who participated in “Breast Milk Ko, Alay Ko,” a breast milk letting event organized last January 23 by the senator’s office in partnership with Taguig city.

The donated milk underwent tests and pasteurization at the Taguig City Human Milk Bank of the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital before being delivered to Batangas.

“Nobody can dispute that breast milk is best for babies. But what do you do when, for some reason, a mother cannot provide this for her child? During a state of stress, a mother’s ability to produce milk could be affected,” Cayetano said as she stressed the importance of breast milk donations for Taal evacuees.

“That’s why we organized the breast milk letting event, because during this time of calamity, we don’t want our babies to stop receiving breast milk. And we thank all the moms who made this possible through their donations. Maraming salamat po sa inyo at huwag po tayong magsawang tumulong,” the senator added.

Cayetano meanwhile stated that the work does not end with today’s ceremony, as she urged more nursing mothers to continue helping fellow moms in need by donating their milk through the TPDH Human Milk Bank.

A breastfeeding advocate, the senator authored the Expanded Breastfeeding Act (Republic Act 10028), which encourages health institutions to establish human milk banks.

Cayetano also authored the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act  (RA 10821), which requires breastfeeding areas to be set up in evacuation centers to enable mothers to feed their babies in private.#

50 liters of breast milk arrive at the Batangas Medical Center in Batangas City. BATMC officials led by Chief of Hospitals Dr. Ramoncito Magnaye welcomed the team from Taguig City and the Office of Senator Pia Cayetano.
Official turnover to the Batangas Human Milk Bank of 50 liters of breast milk donated by volunteer-moms from Taguig City. The Batangas Human Milk Bank supplies breast milk for babies in need at evacuation centers across the province.
Courtesy call to Governor Dodo Mandanas of Batangas province.

 

Donated milk helps nourish children in evacuation centers like Clarck, 8 months old, whose mother Camille Austria, 20, has had difficulty expressing milk after their family was displaced by the Taal eruption.
Interested parties could still donate for babies in need of breast milk through the Taguig Human Milk Bank at the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital.

400 nursing moms gather in Taguig to donate breast milk for ‘Taal babies’

An estimated 400 nursing mothers have come together in Taguig City on Thursday to donate breast milk for babies affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.

Senator Pia S. Cayetano, in partnership with the Human Milk Bank of Taguig City, conducted a day-long breast milk letting event on January 23 at the Lakeshore Tent in Lower Bicutan, Taguig.

The event dubbed, “Breast Milk Ko, Alay Ko,” was made open to all volunteer breastfeeding mothers, including residents and non-residents of the city.

The donated milk will be stored and processed by the Taguig City Human Milk Bank, and delivered to different evacuation centers in the province of Batangas.

“The essence of this is mothers helping other mothers,” Cayetano said during an ambush interview with media on the sidelines of the event.

The milk letting activity is in response to the appeal of the Batangas provincial government for breast milk donations for families who have been displaced by Taal’s eruption. It also follows the Department of Health (DOH) advisory encouraging breast milk donations for areas affected by the disaster.

“Nobody will dispute that breast milk is best for babies. But what do we do when, for some reason, a mother cannot provide that for her baby? There are moms who breastfeed but during a state of stress, their milk supply gets affected. That’s why we are trying to help out to those in need,” the senator explained.

“That is my challenge for all nursing mothers in Taguig and in other places, I hope they can also contribute. For those who have reached out and expressed interest to donate, we will assist. If we can collect those milk from different mothers, we will do so,” she added.

Meanwhile, the senator also pointed out that all donated breast milk collected from the event will be properly pasteurized to ensure that it is safe and clean.

“We want to be sure that the donated breast milk will be in good condition for the babies who will receive them,” Cayetano noted.

A breastfeeding advocate, the senator authored the Expanded Breastfeeding Act (RA 10028), which encourages health institutions to establish human milk banks.

Cayetano also authored the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act  (RA 10821), which requires breastfeeding areas to be set up in evacuation centers to enable mothers to feed their babies in private.

“I have been a breastfeeding advocate for over 10 years now. I did my very first milk bank activity in Makati, and we’ve done it in Cebu and other places, including Taguig. I also personally breastfed my children,” the senator shared.

Furthermore, she encouraged other local government units (LGUs) in the country to initiate their own breast milk letting activities for the benefit of mothers who cannot nurse their children.

“It would also be great for other LGUs to have similar activities like this. Even if there are no calamities, breast milk letting remains a good practice,” she said. #

Taguig City moms step up and respond to the call to donate breast milk for mothers and babies displaced by the Taal volcano eruption.
“The essence of this is mothers helping other mothers.” – Sen Pia Cayetano
Breastfeeding advocates: Senator Pia S. Cayetano and Taguig Representative Lani Cayetano with two nursing moms who volunteered for the breast milk-letting event for evacuees in Batangas.

Pia calls for stricter compliance with breastfeeding laws

In keeping up with this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month celebration, Senator Pia S. Cayetano called on concerned government agencies to ensure the proper implementation of laws that promote breastfeeding practices among Filipino mothers.

“I am duty-bound to do my part in promoting breastfeeding, being the author of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Law, together with the late Senator Ed Angara,” Cayetano said in her privilege speech on Tuesday (August 6).

The senator was referring to Republic Act No. 10028 or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009,” which she championed during her first term as senator. The law requires the establishment of Lactation Stations in public places, government facilities, and private offices. 

Ten years into the passage of the measure, Cayetano stressed that more needs to be done to fully promote the practice of breastfeeding, especially among working mothers. She said agencies tasked to implement the law should step up to properly enforce it.

“My call to action is for the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that all sectors are compliant with RA 10028. We should direct all hospitals, health institutions, and even industries manufacturing and distributing formula milk, to follow regulations set by the law,” she said.

The senator also urged the labor department and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to strictly monitor if private companies and government offices are following requirements in setting up Lactation Stations and providing Lactation Breaks for nursing employees. 

“I have women who message me on social media [complaining] that their bosses are not giving them time off to breastfeed. But that is required by the law. We need the [concerned government agencies] to step up on this,” Cayetano said. 

“We also need all employers to be mindful of [our breastfeeding law] because otherwise, we would not set up the environment for successful breastfeeding,” she added. 

Furthermore, Cayetano called on local government units (LGUs) in the country to abide by the provisions of another law, which requires that breastfeeding areas be set up in evacuation centers in times of calamities.

“Breastfeeding stations must be present during disaster risk situations. It is required that every LGU provides the support that a breastfeeding mother and family needs,” she said. 

Republic Act 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, which Cayetano sponsored, requires that transitional shelters provide mother- and child-friendly spaces, including maternal, newborn, and infant care rooms where moms can feed their babies in private.

Lastly, the senator reminded employers of provisions of Republic Act 11210 or the “Expanded Maternity Leave Law” on granting working mothers 105 days of paid maternity leave.  

“This law complements our breastfeeding measures, because one of the biggest deterrents to women continuing to breastfeed is when they go to work and get separated from their children,” said Cayetano, one of the bill’s principal authors in the 17th Congress. #

Senator Pia Cayetano delivers a privilege speech on breastfeeding month. Behind her in the VIP gallery is the senator’s mother, Sandra Schramm Cayetano, who supported the Taguig lawmaker in her struggles as a young breastfeeding mom. (Senate PRIB)

Privilege speech on Breastfeeding Month*

Mr. President, I believe in the 12 years I was in the Senate, I think without miss, I delivered a speech on breastfeeding every August. And the reason for that is because August is Breastfeeding Month.

Thus, I am duty-bound to do my part in promoting breastfeeding, being the author of the Expanded Breastfeeding Law, together with the late Senator Ed Angara. 

But the question that I’d like my colleagues to ponder is this. Why do we need to promote something that is so natural that is a biological function of every mother? 

The reason for that is because over the decades, we have lost the breastfeeding culture, especially among mothers who work outside of the home, and there has also been a lot of misinformation on breast milk alternatives, which has resulted in sickness and death among our infants. 

A little bit of history, Mr. President. Obviously, women breastfed from the time of Adam and Eve. However, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, there was a major shift in the traditional woman’s life. They left their homes to join the workforce. Working hours and hours, half a day, and many of them living away from home. 

This caused the separation of the mother from her child, interfering with breastfeeding. The result was many babies fell sick and actually died. There were no studies to determine, to tell what were the acceptable alternatives to breast milk. Thus led to the invention of formula milk. 

And for a while, this was seen as a suitable alternative to breast milk for mothers. In fact, it became very lucrative because the demand of working mothers grew and for long, formula milk was even touted as the best food for babies. They would say that it makes babies grow stronger, grow taller, become smarter, etc. etc. 

Well over the decades, this was proven to be false. There is no formula or milk substitute that can provide the nutrients or immunological benefits that breast milk can provide. I repeat, there is no other product than the mother’s milk. Anyone else who says so is lying. 

I am now going to take the opportunity to greet a soon-to-be father, Former Congressman Samsam Gullas, who’s behind me, to remember that. Because the next part of my speech is about being a very supportive breastfeeding husband or father.

Anyway, the advertisements and commercials supporting formula milk led many mothers to believe that in fact they could give their [babies] this formula milk, and their babies would be healthier. The most affected always are the poorest of the poor, because they had very little money to spend, they would buy formula, and then they would even use it not within the prescribed manner of using it. They would dilute it with more water because they didn’t have the money to pay for all that formula milk. And thus, their baby would even get more malnourished. 

And during times of disaster, Mr. President, I’ll talk about this a little bit more. When formula milk was made available, without access to clean water, babies even got diarrhea and some would even die. So, this led to the passage of EO 51, which regulated the promotion and advertising of breast milk substitutes. That was before I became a senator, Mr. President. 

Meanwhile, I became a working mother myself, and from my own research, wala pa hong internet noon, so I bought books and I read on these books. I realized, I learned that breast milk was best for babies. I breastfed my three children, and indulge me, Mr. President, as I share this story. My mom, who happens to be in the audience today, she actually surprised me, I did not know that she would be here. So that’s my mom, over there. Mom, can you stand up? 

For those of you who were colleagues of my father, now you know where my brothers and I get most of our wisdom from. Our mother. Anyway, my breastfeeding story. My mom was my invaluable partner in my breastfeeding journey.  I lived in a two-bedroom house in Taguig with my brother, Alan, now the Speaker of the House. I lived in one room with my husband, and he lived in his other room by himself, as far as I know. 

Meanwhile, because I was breastfeeding night and day, my mom would come over and sleep in our house, and she would sleep in Alan’s room and get my baby at any hour of the night so that I could have a little but of sleep. And thus, Alan technically also witnessed and was a partner in my breastfeeding journey.

I had a very similar experience with my second child. It was not an easy experience in both cases, because I was a working mom, I had to stay up all night. I am not one of those mothers who had an oversupply of milk. I cried in the first two months of breastfeeding my baby. It was painful, I had no sleep, I went to work and had to budget my time, carrying what looked like a briefcase, but was actually a breast pump. 

Come my third child who is actually in the picture on the wall, my third child was Gabriel. He was born with a cleft lip and palate and he also had many other conditions brought about by his condition, which is called Trisomy 13. Thus, he could not really suck well and so I breastfed him through a tube that went all the way down to his stomach.

So that was my breastfeeding experience. Every mother has her own story to tell. 

Fast forward, I became a senator, and I was approached by many advocacy groups asking for help in promoting breastfeeding. And this gave me the opportunity to work with the late Senator Ed Angara, wherein we passed the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Law in 2009. 

This law required that we set up Lactation Stations in the workplaces, and in places frequented by women. So gentlemen, if you go with your wives to SM or other malls, please do me a favor and ensure that you see a breastfeeding center.  I mentioned SM because to be fair to SM, they even put up the lactation stations before it became a law. So… Yes, that is part of it. Senator Gordon pointed it out something that I will actually talk about. 

The law also required that we require doctors and health workers to talk about it, because surprisingly, we met a lot of mothers who said their doctors never talked about breastfeeding with them. Whether it was the OB-Gyne or the Pediatrician. I’d like to believe that since we passed this law, which has been 10 years, this has been improved.

It has also required that this be part of the Curriculum. What we want to see is that, when children read books, they see pictures of a breastfeeding family, and not a family that has a baby being fed through a bottle. Because we want to promote a breastfeeding culture.

Now to complement this law, and to also help in ensuring its implementation, I did my little share of talking to health workers, talking to mothers, visiting hospitals, encouraging LGUs to put up milk banks. And this is where the birthday celebrant, Senator Dick Gordon, comes in. Senator Dick Gordon is a proponent of blood-letting. I am a proponent of milk-letting. It is very similar… and let me get there. He is also a proponent of milk… breast milk promotion, because as the Red Cross chair, they require that our disaster centers are breastfeeding-friendly. 

So for those who don’t know what a breast milk… a milk bank is, what a milk-letting activity is, it’s similar to blood-letting where you ask people to volunteer. In this case, these are mothers who are actually breastfeeding and have milk to share. And they pump their milk and they donate it. And it will be put in a storage for mothers who would be needing it for their babies in the future. 

Fast forward, was the Maternity Leave Law, which we all passed just recently. And this law complements the breastfeeding laws that I mentioned because one of the biggest deterrents to women continuing to breastfeed is the fact that they go to work and they’re separated from their children. 

So, for those gentlemen here who will have women in your workforce who will be breastfeeding, please, not I encourage you, but I remind you that it is the law to allow them to have time to breastfeed. Sadly, our law only provides for 40 minutes, which is actually not enough, for those gentlemen. I know Joel was a supportive breastfeeding husband, so was Sonny. I don’t know the rest, but whoever else was, thank you for that. 

You know that 40 minutes in a workday is not enough to breastfeed. So I encourage you to be even more supportive than that. My staff who do not know that I am about to call their attention. My Chief of Staff, DG, who disappeared. My Personal Assistant, Claire. They both breastfed their babies while working for me.

On the Senate Lactation Room
When we first launched it, we had a tarpaulin, because when hearings start, we were very pleasantly surprised that visitors, our resource persons who would come, were very happy that we have a Lactation Room that they can visit. So let’s make them know that by putting up the proper signage so that they know that the Senate is breastfeeding-friendly. 

And I also had the privilege, Mr. President, of setting up the same in the House of Representatives when I was there over the last three years. 

So my call to action,  Mr. President is simply that DOH ensures that all the sectors are compliant, hospitals, health institutions, and even the industries that manufacture and distribute milk formula, that they follow our rules and regulations; the Department of Labor, that they ensure that the private companies are following the requirement that Lactation Stations are set up within their offices…

I have women who message me on Twitter and Instagram that their boss is not giving them time off to breastfeed, so that is required by the law. So we need DOLE to step up on this. The Civil Service, to ensure also that our government agencies are also compliant. We should take the lead. 

I’d like to point out that the Senate is very small compared to the House of Representatives. When I went there, that was one of the first things that I did, to check where the Lactation Station is. And in a setup like that, although the law does not dictate how many meters away that Lactation Station should be from a woman’s office, the fact that the House of Representatives is an entire complex, Mr. President, to walk from your office to the next building would already use up the remaining minutes you have to breastfeed. 

So we need employers to be mindful of this, because otherwise, we do not set up the environment for successful breastfeeding.

My final call to action is for the LGUs. as our colleague, Senator Gordon, said, breastfeeding must also be present in disaster risk situations, in evacuation stations, the picture I have there is actually my sister-in-law, Fille, who breastfed three of her babies, she’s there to give support to the evacuation center that was set up by my brother, Mayor Lino Cayetano. And again, this was compliant with the law and it is required that every LGU provides the support that a breastfeeding mother and family needs. 

So I end my privilege speech. Thank you so much, Mr. President, to our colleagues, who listened to this. For those who have been here for 12 years, for listening to me on this topic, for 12 years. Thank you very much. #

*Privilege speech delivered on the Senate session on Tuesday, August 6, 2019.

Senator Pia: “We need employers to be mindful of [the law allowing paid lactation breaks for nursing employees], because otherwise, we do not set up the environment for successful breastfeeding.”

Breastfeeding vital to achieving sustainable dev’t goals

Senator Pia S. Cayetano called for the cooperation of all sectors in supporting the culture of breastfeeding among Filipina mothers to ensure the health of succeeding generations of young Filipinos, which she said is vital to achieving the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

A staunch breastfeeding advocate, Cayetano authored the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028) which mandates paid lactation breaks for nursing employees in the workplace, and the establishment of breastfeeding rooms in public places, like shopping malls, government facilities, and transport hubs such as airports, seaports, and bus stations. 

“Breastfeeding safeguards the well-being of babies and mothers. It ensures a healthy future for the child, positively affects the mother’s health, and thus enables the family to be better members of the community,” the senator said on Breastfeeding Month which is celebrated in August .

“The gains we’ve made since the passage of RA 10028 ten years ago are the results of our social investments in breastfeeding. We should press on in helping mothers breastfeed and educating them on its importance,” she added. 

“I know it is not easy, especially for working mothers because I also breastfed my children. I’ve become an advocate ever since,” shared the senator, who worked as a corporate lawyer prior to entering politics in 2004. 

“Our objective is to create a favorable environment for Filipina mothers to fully embrace breastfeeding, especially among young and new mothers,” Cayetano said, adding that this would require cooperation from both government and the private sector.

To ensure that Philippine Congress itself complies with the law it passed and become ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ institutions under RA 10028, Cayetano personally worked for the establishment of lactation rooms for nursing employees in both the Senate (in August 2014) and the House of Representatives (in March 2019). 

Cayetano also helped set up human milk banks in Taguig City and Cebu City, and sponsored breastfeeding seminars and milk donation campaigns in various places across the country as part of her Pinay In Action (PIA) advocacy. 

The senator said the social benefits from supporting breastfeeding should bring the country closer towards achieving Goal 2 (“achieve zero hunger”) and Goal 3 (“ensure good health and well-being”) of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. 

She noted that even the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recognizes the vital role of breastfeeding in achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNICEF notes that breastfeeding can help achieve many of the 17 SDGs, including the goals on health, poverty, hunger, education, gender equality, and sustainable consumption.

“We need to take stronger initiatives to build on our gains. Let’s always remember that a healthy community is a sustainable community. If we want to achieve our sustainable development goals, let’s first make our babies and mothers healthy,” Cayetano concluded.#

Standing proudly in front of a breastfeeding room at a shopping mall in Cavite. The establishment of lactation stations in public places is one of the highlights of Cayetano’s Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (RA 10028).
Breastfeeding-friendly workplace: Senator Pia Cayetano with breastfeeding employees at the lactation room that Cayetano helped establish at the the Senate in 2014.

Pia reveals ‘3 gifts’ for women on Int’l Women’s Day

Good health, free choice, and equal opportunities.
These are the three ‘gift’ every Filipina deserves to receive and enjoy, senatorial candidate Pia S. Cayetano said on the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8.


“Dahil espesyal ang araw na ito, gusto kong ipaabot sa bawat Pilipina ang tatlong mahahalagang regalong ito: Gift of Health o Kalusugan, Free Choice o Malayang Pagpili, at Equal Opportunities o Patas na Pagkakataon,’ Cayetano said in a speech delivered in a mix of Ilonggo, Filipino and English before thousands of political supporters at the PDP-Laban rally in Victorias City, Negros Occidental on Friday,
Firstly, the Taguig representative stressed the need to provide quality affordable healthcare services for women employees, given the dual role they play as mothers and members of theworkforce.


“Gusto ko pong mabigyan ng malusog na pangangatawan ang ating mga nanay lalo na pagkatapos manganak. Mahalaga ding makaiwas ang inyong mga anak sa anumang sakit,” shestressed.
The staunch health advocate then cited two laws she authored on maternal and child health, namely, the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law (Republic Act 11210), which was signed recently by President Rodrigo Duterte, and the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act (Republic Act 10152).


Furthermore, Cayetano said women deserve to be accorded the ‘Gift of Free Choice,’ particularly in planning the number and spacing of their children and preparing for their family’sfuture.
According to Cayetano, this was her inspiration in fighting for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act in 2012 (Republic Act 10354). The law grants Filipino families, especially the poor, free access to family planning services and commodities.


Meanwhile, recognizing the crucial role of women in sustained economic growth, the congresswoman expressed her commitment to continue championing initiatives that provide equal opportunities for women in the workplace.


“Dapat po ay husay at abilidad ang basehan para makapag-trabaho, hindi ang kasarian o edad ng isang tao,” stressed Cayetano, who also authored the Anti-Age Discrimination inEmployment Law (Republic Act 10911), which primarily seeks to help women who become victims of age discrimination in job hiring and employment.


“This is my message to all the hardworking Filipinas this Women’s Day. Mananatili po akong handa na maglingkod sa inyo at sa inyong mga pamilya. We will keep working hard to ensure for you these three gifts, not only on Women’s Day, but every day of every year,” Cayetano concluded. #

Pia leads breastfeeding room launch in Congress

‘Perfect gift for HREP women employees on Women’s Month’

House Deputy Speaker and Taguig City representative Pia S. Cayetano on Monday led the inauguration of the first breastfeeding room for nursing female employees of the House of Representatives (HREP) in Quezon City.


The breastfeeding room resulted from the initiative of Cayetano, who had written the House leadership requesting the establishment of the facility as mandated by law. A similar request was also made to the House leaders in a separate letter sent by a group of breastfeeding mothers employed at the House.


It was Cayetano, then a senator, who pushed for the passage of Republic Act 10028, or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which mandated paid lactation breaks for nursing mothers during work hours, and the establishment of lactation rooms in public places and facilities, as well as government and private offices.


The landmark law was signed in 2009 by then President and current House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Thank you to everyone who made this happen. To [Committee on Women and Gender Equality chair, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy], to the Speaker and Secretary General… I hope we can continue working together to support women in the workforce,” Cayetano said.

“If there are three mothers this month that will have the pleasure of using this lactation room, that would translate to three babies being breastfed longer and protected better,” she added.

“What could be a better gift for nursing employees of the House of Representatives on Women’s Month than a breastfeeding room they could access in their own workplace? This facility is also open to non-employees, or breastfeeding mothers who happen to be visiting Congress,” she continued.

“I hope we can see the establishment of more lactation rooms in the next months to come. The objective is to make it convenient for a mother to breastfeed. We want breastfeeding to be thefirst choice and, if possible, the only choice for mothers to ensure the health of our children,” Cayetano said.

The former senator was joined at the inauguration by Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, House Acting Secretary General Dante Roberto Maling, HREP officials and pregnant and nursing employees of the House.

This was not the first time the Taguig representative personally worked for the proper implementation of RA 10028 in an institution tasked to craft and pass laws. During her term as Senator, Cayetano also pushed for the opening of a breastfeeding room at the Philippine  Senate headquarters in Pasay City. #

House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano is joined by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (BH Party-List), House officials led by OIC Secretary General Roberto Maling and nursing and pregnant women employees at the launch of the first breastfeeding room at the House of Representatives.
The breastfeeding room was initiated by House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, who delivered a privilege speech and wrote a letter to the House leadership, and a group of nursing moms employed at the House of Representatives who made a separate request to Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Expanded maternity leave puts PH at par with ASEAN, ILO standards

The passage of Republic Act 11210 or the 105-Day Expanded bMaternity Leave Law will allow women workers in the Philippines to be at par with their counterparts in South East Asia in terms of maternity leave benefits.

At the same time, the measure signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last week would enable the country to meet the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

It should be noted that the ILO recommends 14 weeks, or 98 days, of maternity leave to allow working moms sufficient time to recover from childbirth and take care of their newborn before reporting back for work.

“This law is our government’s best gift to working moms and Filipino families as we approach March, which is International Women’s Month,” said House Deputy Speaker and senatorialcandidate Pia S. Cayetano, one the law’s principal authors and sponsors.

“From the bottom of the list, we now belong among the top countries in ASEAN providing sufficient maternity leave for their women workers,” she noted.

RA 11210 extended the maternity leave from 60 and 78 days (for natural and caesarian childbirth, respectively) to 105 days.

Vietnam currently offers the longest maternity leave in the region at 180 days, while Singapore ranks second with 112 days.

Brunei, Laos, and now, the Philippines, provide 105 days; Myanmar and Thailand 98 days; while Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia round up the list with 90 days.

“It takes two houses of Congress (the house and Senate) and the President’s approval to pass a law” Cayetano, the measure’s original proponent in the 16th Congress, stressed.

It will be recalled that Cayetano filed and sponsored the earlier version of the expanded maternity leave bill as the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality in the 16th Congress. The measure was approved by the Senate in 2016.

However, since the House of Representatives did not pass its version at the time, Cayetano had to refile her Senate-approved bill, this time in the House, after she was elected representative of Taguig City in the current 17th Congress.

“I thank and congratulate everyone who was part of the legislative process, including my colleagues in Congress, government agencies, and of course, our President who signed the bill into law after careful deliberation. The most important thing is that our people will benefit – mothers , fathers, [and] the entire family,” Cayetano concluded. #

From the bottom of the list, the Philippines now joins the ranks of top ASEAN countries giving sufficient maternity leave to women workers at 105 days.