Sunday, February 22, 2015

Even Breastfeeding Advocates Cry At Night

If... Even pretty girls cry at night...

Well, even breastfeeding counselors,  advocates, experts and  BFP admins cry/cried at night too. 

We cried/cry because most of us didn't know what to do in the first place.

We cried/cry because we made/make mistakes.

We cried/cry because nothing can really prepare you for the demands of a newborn. First time mothers will get shocked into the role, it is so "every moment". Those with other kids will have to juggle time and energy for all the other children who would all need something from her.

We cried/cry because even the most loving and supportive of households can never fully share the exhaustion breastfeeding brings.

We cried/cry because even the most loving of husbands will continue sleeping while we nurse through the night.

We cried/cry because no woman ever imagines seeing their nipples sucked raw, sore, bleeding or with blebs and pus. It's scary and extremely painful when your breasts get engorged. 

We cried/cry because when babies bite, the pain reaches down to our toes. If they do it while awake, you can train them not to... But what of those lockjaw moments they get while in deep sleep? No self-respecting Mom will be shaking them awake to tell them biting hurts. Nay, we just grit our teeth in the dark, crying the silent tears as we continue nursing. 

We cried/cry because some of us had unsupportive households, relatives and friends.

We cried/cry because some of the significant people in our lives "blame us" for everything that goes wrong or seems wrong with the baby... Or anything that doesn't meet THEIR standards. 

We cried/cry because the doctors we turn to for help when we get sick almost always tell us to stop breastfeeding, in the meantime or for good, instead of doing their job... Which is to update their knowledge base and prescribe medicines that are breastfeeding-safe.

We cried/cry because it gets depressing, exhausting and downright annoying to have to keep explaining, defending and fighting for our choice and the Science behind that choice. 

We cried/cry because those of us who have given formula and seen the effects of that to an older child will forever regret not having known better then. 

We cried/cry because those of us who work away from home get overwhelmed and exhausted and stressed over keeping our milk supply up, pumping enough and storing enough for our child.

We cried/cry because no matter how much we love our babies, the nights seem triply long when they are sick and forever attached to us. 

We cried/cry over the responsibility of being sole provider... We sometimes deny ourselves medications or delay treatments just because we don't want our baby to be without us. 

We cried/cry over aching arms and back pains... Maybe even disproportionate (size) boobs (since most babies will favor one more).

We cried/cry because we are made to feel ashamed for nursing in public.

And for those that Life thought to challenge more, they cried because their babies were born earlier or with biological impediments (tongue tie, cleft palate, etc) or life-threatening conditions that make breastfeeding more challenging.

And yet... Here we are, trying to help and inspire others... And save one mother and child at a time. 

Because we believe in God's provision and Nature's grand design. Man would not have been able to survive as a species if we had to rely on "modern formula, fortifiers and vitamins" to be healthy.

So, those of you about to begin your journey... Or are struggling now... Please know that we cried at nights too.

The only things that made it easy were  that we believed we made the decision to breastfeed 
1) out of nothing but love for our child
2) out of nothing but a desire to invest in our health and our child's health for the long-term
3) out of nothing but faith that the same God who gave us this baby will allow us to provide for this baby

Us breastfeeders, breastfeeding counselors, advocates, experts and BFP admins... We still cry.

We cry for every mother we try to help that refuse our help.

We cry for the poor who do not know better to make informed choices for their families.

We cry for moms whose efforts are being undermined by their own partners, family, friends, doctors and at work. 

We cry for illnesses and deaths that could have been prevented or reduced in severity had the baby been breastfed. 

We cry... Because there is still so much to do for the advocacy, and we get exhausted too. 

But again, because of the tears shed before and despite the tears we shed now, we are here, wanting to help however way we can. Because we know we stand for truth and love. 

And for every success story we hear, for every mom we meet who strives, for every milestone our own child reaches... There are tears of joy.

#BF1st1000days


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Choose to Join Us!


I like to think breastfeeding forums, and breastfeeding (BF) and infant and young child feeding (IYCF) advocates are like teachers to mothers, especially the new ones. We can only open the door to success by providing the right info and support, but YOU mothers have to choose to enter that door by yourself.

You have to choose to listen to what we are saying (which are based on facts), and then do your own research to make informed decisions.

You have to be willing to let go of preconceived notions, habits, old beliefs.

You have to be willing to fight for and stand up for your rights and your child's rights... even if it may mean challenging relationships.

You have to be vigilant about asking what is due you... as a citizen of this country, ensure the Milk Code is implemented for you. As an employee, insist on lactation breaks (even if a lactation room cannot be physically provided for you). As a patient, demand your doctor to only prescribe breastfeeding-safe meds and focus on your baby, not on weight and yellowness.

You have to keep your eye on the goal always, in all ways.

You have to take inspiration where you can and filter out everything that does not help you achieve your goals.

You have to prioritize health in the long term (for you and baby) over what is convenient now.

You have to edit your own thoughts, your own questions... so that they empower you into action, and not depress you into giving up.

You have to celebrate the little things and the little triumphs... and take things one day at a time.

You have to treat challenges (pumping, soreness, sickness) as bumps in the road and not your final destination. You have to accept that there will be difficulties (and heck, you are entitled to tears and the occasional chocolate bar or ice cream pint) because what you are doing IS worthwhile.

You have to write your own breastfeeding story and not have others write it for you.

You have to find ways and make ways.

Most of all, you have to believe that God gave your child to YOU... so what that child needs is Mom, not Man-made. (love this slogan!)

Champion yourself and your child... we can only show you how and where to go. After all, we were all once lacking information and empowerment, and as governed by fears and insecurities as you. It's just now, we know better so we do better.

Choose to join us.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Do the Math, Aim High for Breastfeeding

"Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (August). For this month, we write about the World Breastfeeding Week 2014 - Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life and share how breastfeeding can help the Philippines achieve the 8 Millennium Development Goals developed by the government and the United Nations. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic.  Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

I will admit to being stumped as to what to write for my chosen Millennium Development Goals (Achieve Universal Primary Education and Develop a Global Partnership for Development). After all, what else do I say that I have not said before?

But since I have adopted the "Do the Math" mantra whenever I try to inspire moms to stick to and commit to breastfeeding, I guess I will  adopt the same here.

First, let's have a quick look at the following pertinent breastfeeding statistics:
1,738,100 babies are born in the country yearly
Only 34% of these babies end up being exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months (around 278, 000 babies)
18.75 - infant mortality rate for every 1,000 births (that is at least 32,000 babies 1 year below)
16,000 children between 1-5 years old die every year from illnesses traced to formula-feeding or directly-addressed by breastfeeding

It is actually very good that infant mortality rate in our country has been steadily declining. And looking at these numbers, we can say that just more push from the right institutions and it can be further reduced dramatically. That is where breastfeeding will come in.

Just another 10% more moms to exclusively breastfeed can buy them lactation amenorrhea, protection from getting pregnant again and contributing to next year's population. A steady increase like this can mean that ten years down the line, the government can be at a perfect position to actually provide better primary public education because population growth was curbed somehow (or at least, it did not boom as exponentially).

Add to this the possibility that a family with an infant who breastfed exclusively can channel their abundant/ just enough/meager funds to food for the entire family as well as education for the older children.

Let us not even quibble with rates and percentages. Let us just say that if 1,000 more families will exclusively breastfeed this year, there may be 1,000 less babies next year... and 1,000 more babies next year who will be better fed.

For us middle-class and the rich, with happy problems like which food to introduce first and whether we are able to offer enough variation, this does not seem impressive. But try living their life... Tell me if it's still easy. Try living from hand to mouth. Try losing a child to diseases like diarrhea (Go Erceflora!) and infections (Amoxycillin anyone?). Try having kids with stunted growth who cannot process what they should be able to by the time they are of school age, putting further stress on an already struggling education system. Try imagining how burdensome that could be to a family if a child will be unable to learn or contribute. Try imagining struggling to feed and raise a child only to lose that child before it turns 5 years old... and repeat the same every few years or so.

From a middle-class point of view, consider how kids of can afford parents start school at the average age of 3. This means that from that point on, that child will be bringing home viruses and germs he caught in school. Now, imagine that there will be 1,000 less toddlers/preschoolers who will get sick this year from a certain flu strain because they are still being breastfed. They won't get sick because their mom's milk will give them the antibodies. That means no medicine intake or hospitalization for a few days. That means Mommy doesn't have to go absent from work for a few days. No stress on the finances or on everybody's schedule. That will mean not missing school for a few days so there is less tension about missed lessons. Now, what if these one thousand kids  get spared twice in a year? Thrice? This great possibility is attainable if only a mother will commit to breastfeeding in the first 1,000 days of a child's life.  #BF1st1000days

Wouldn't you agree that if you look at things this way, it becomes easier to see why our government should make this a priority?

Where does global partnership come in?

Well, 1,000 more kids breastfed means 1,000 less that institutions like WHO and UNICEF will be worrying about because it is 1,000 less children requiring aid.

1,000 more breastfed kids mean 1,000 less to make provisions for in times of emergencies and calamities.

1,000 more breastfed kids would mean  at least one set of 1,000 days not missed by working moms to deliver services locally and internationally. Aren't you curious just how much that would mean for commerce and trade?

1,000 more breastfed kids will mean millions of savings from out-patient treatment due to respiratory diseases.

If policies like "Wednesdays off  for baby's first year" (an additional 44 days of maternity leave) can be enacted, we might be looking at more than 1,000!

And 1,000 babies exclusively breastfed has the potential of bringing about 192,000 less cans in dump sites (the environmental cost by those who can afford). Indeed, why don't we tell formula-feeders that when they do so, they are wasting water and blocking drainages?

Oh, and 1,000 less children dying will mean around P33M savings from funeral costs, FYI. These costs affect the national budget, the implementation of plans, the approval of loans and aids and the ability to pay off such loans. These savings can in turn be channeled to feeding and educating more children, right?

Breastfeeding is truly a gift. It is basically free and yet it can save money and lives, regardless of demographic. Which is why I hope you will scroll down to read the rest of the entries for this blog carnival. Read and share each one if you can, let us get more mommies to commit to breastfeeding in the first 1000 days. We may not meet our MDG targets next year but still, any small step in the right direction :)

*~*~*

Here are many thoughts and reasons why we should all advocate for mothers to breastfeed for the first 1,000 days of life #BF1st1000days

Jenny shares experiencing the One Asia Breastfeeding Forum

Mec insists to do the Math and breastfeed!

Ams, The Passionate Mom says Breastfeed for a Better Future

Pat says breastfeeding saves money and the planet

Cheryl, the Multi-Tasking Mama, tackles maternal health as addressed by breastfeeding

2011 CNN Hero Ibu Robin highlights gentle births and breasfeeding, even in disaster zones

Felyn stresses that Healthy Moms = Healthy Babies

Monique reminds us that there are second chances in breastfeeding

Normi relates how breastfeeding gave her strength and purpose

Nats thanks Dr. Jack Newman for showing how breastfeeding can be a win-win situation

Em believes breastfeeding is a solution to societal problems

Marge shares what breastfeeding has taught them

Kaity was empowered financially and as a woman through breastfeeding

Madel relates her breastfeeding saga

Jen of Next9 reminds us to do our research and share what we know

Celerhina Aubrey vows to work on one mother at a time

Grace wants to put an end to stories of toasted coffee and similar stuff over breast milk

Diane shares how she prevailed when things did not go according to plan

Hazel appreciates mommy support groups

Roan combines two passions, breastfeeding and architecture

Queenie tackled breastfeeding as the best choice for the environment as well and breastfeeding myths and poverty

Rosa shares how the picture she thought of was realized

Sally believes breastfeeding benefits mankind and our planet Earth

Floraine reminds us that breastfeeding helps combat diseases

Crislyn was happy to realize that she improved her own health by breastfeeding

Armi reminds us how breastfeeding during emergencies is crucial

Arvi tells us how breastfeeding made her look at her body a different way

Clarice elaborates on how breastfeeding saves lives and the planet

Giane reminds us that women empowerment can begin by seeing breastfeeding as more than a feeding issue

Liza thought she was only breastfeeding for her child


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Breastfeeding and the First 1,000 Days #BF1st1000days

My biggest takeaway from the first day of the 2nd Breastfeeding Congress was the role breastfeeding plays in the first 1,000 days.

First 1,000 Days is a partnership among key players worldwide concerned with maternal and child nutrition. Basically, the belief (backed by numerous studies) is that the first one thousand days of a child’s life is the period that decides the health and wealth of the world. From pre-conception care to the first two years of life, how a child is nourished will influence his long-term health, ability to learn and performance in all aspects of society. Breastfeeding, having the largest impact on child mortality of all preventive intervention, is thus something that all nations have to promote, support and protect.

Unfortunately, milk companies are trying to jump on the 1,000 days bandwagon to squash all the efforts the UNICEF and WHO (as well as other concerned agencies) have been putting in for this breastfeeding campaign and confuse consumers yet again. Or maybe I mean dupe consumers. Nestle and Danone have officially hijacked the initiative and launched/registered sites bearing the 1,000 days catch phrase. It definitely isn’t the first time that milk companies will twist something from the breastfeeding camp (golden bow, “best start”, etc). You can download Breaking the Rules 2014 and see for yourself other violations these companies have been committing worldwide.

It is in this regard that breastfeeders, breastfeeding advocates and breastfeeding supporters are now being called to express support for breastfeeding. Let us use our social media accounts. Let us post breastfeeding photos, breastfeeding quotes, reflections on your journey/testimonies as a breastfeeder and use the hashtag #BF1st1000days.

Perhaps, in this way, these milk companies won’t even think of bringing their ludicrous underhandedness in the Philippines.


Having breastfeeding in mind while pregnant helps mothers mentally prepare themselves and the people around them to breastfeed. Breastfeeding in the first two years of life (and beyond) complemented by healthy eating habits after baby turns six months reduces risks for chronic diseases for both mother and child. Breastfeed for the first one thousand days. Let your posts all contain #BF1st1000days

Friday, August 1, 2014

Truths Behind Rejection of Formula Donations During and After Emergency Situations

(I wrote this article last 22 November 2013 with the hope that some bigger syndication will publish it... wellm they didn't so I am claiming it back for my blog. This was a reaction to all the debate going on about formula donations post-Yolanda, one that even reached international forums)

Babies and children are top priority when disaster strikes. When natural calamities end up displacing hundreds of people, one of the first calls to go out or be offered is formula milk donations.

Two weeks ago, the Visayan region of the Philippines was hit by what is touted to be the strongest typhoon ever recorded in human history. The storm surge that came along with it killed thousands and leveled several areas, stripping people of their homes, schools, churches and hospitals. Hundreds of thousands of people scattered over several provinces are left without food and shelter and yet, why are formula donations being banned by the government?

There are several inter-related truths that provide rationale for this particular policy:

1. Most mothers start out breastfeeding their children. Based on experience over several strong typhoons, most that end up in evacuation centers are either breastfed and mix-fed. Few babies below the age of six months are completely formula dependent. Thus, the need for formula donations is not high and one the government can certainly address.

2. Studies show that 50% of formula fed babies run the risk of requiring hospital treatment in emergency situations, mostly due to ill-prepared formula that will be inevitable in shelters where clean water, sterile equipment and a steady supply of the formula are hard to come by. Usually, evacuees are deluged with donations in the first few days but are left wanting in the weeks, maybe even months, to come. The reality is that mothers sometimes end up preparing formula using rain or portalet water or diluting it so much that it causes water intoxication in their babies. Most people have not made the connection that formula is called precisely that because it has to be prepared a certain way for it to be beneficial.

3. Getting mix-feeding mothers to relactate, new mothers to exclusively breastfeed, and parents to wean their toddlers/preschoolers off formula/bottle feeding reduces the risks posed by ill-prepared formula. The simple act of giving milk using cups instead of feeding bottles or getting toddlers eating more solids are more practical and sustainable strategies in emergency situations.

4. There is a system in place that allows formula fed babies to get formula at evacuation centers and temporary shelters. These babies are neither forgotten nor allowed to die. Hopefully, those identified to have no other option but formula will also be monitored. However, when more mothers exclusively breastfeed, the few formula-dependent babies left can be better provided for with age-appropriate milk and other resources and information necessary to ensure safe formulation.

5. Resources are a challenge post-calamity, even if a family does not end up in an evacuation center. Communication lines may be down for a while. Water pipes busted. Supplies like gas or milk may be out of stock. In tent cities, clean water is often scarce and a family might not be able to get enough to wash and sterilize feeding bottles, what more have enough to prepare formula with. Congestion may also increase the level of humidity, expediting milk spoilage.

6. There is no wisdom in providing hundreds of cans of milk, or including a box of milk per prepacked baby kit to all families in an evacuation center since formula has to be age-appropriate and only babies under age 1 truly rely on milk as their main source of nourishment. Unfortunately, if formula is given to a breastfeeding family, they will use it, even if they were already breastfeeding successfully. If powdered milk is given to each family, they will use it, even if they were not milk drinkers previously. Such has been the indoctrination  of some societies, like ours, that people actually think formula is a safer, better food for their baby. For some, it is even a status symbol.

7. For the same price per can, private citizens or organizations could be providing one to three days worth of food and water to families in calamity zones and temporary shelters. The percentage of infants is always very low (and again, most that stay in evacuation centers are breastfed to some degree) so it is more practical to channel funds to feeding all members of a family, instead of just one, or providing them with shelter, clothes, medicines, etc. It also makes no sense for centers to be flooded with free formula while families struggle to get drinking water, cook their food or clothe themselves.

8. Returning to their homes or relocation may be a long time coming for evacuees which will pose challenges for the parents and the government to sustain formula feeding. At best, the average Filipino family can barely sustain the cost of formula for a whole year. Imagine how much worse it would be for families left with nothing and no clear prospects for the future.

9. Thanks to a growing number of breastfeeding advocates, the Milk Code is being observed better and better in the Philippines. Unfortunately, this has not stopped milk companies from offering free milk through hospitals and clinics. Milk companies are also known to freely distribute samples by the can in schools, conferences and the like. This surely suggests that should the government not have the budget to purchase formula for the few babies per center that need it, our leaders can still appeal to these companies to provide the milk because they can afford to give them freely. Private citizens and organizations, out of concern for babies, need not spend for them at all.  Unfortunately though, milk companies in the country seem to have a problem with donating unbranded cans to the Department of Health (per Milk Code stipulation) as well as taking on the task, even if they can afford it, of providing free milk indefinitely for evacuees that need it.

10. Formula feeding eats up resources in already compromised living arrangements. It eats up gas and water that could be used for cooking. It requires soap (or salt). It is a monthly expense. It takes up space and requires light (as proven by a mom who mistakenly used gasoline in preparing her baby's milk, accidentally killing her child). And because formula feeding increases risks for certain diseases (diarrhea, ear infection, allergies) that living in a shelter compounds, there will also be medical costs and it may even cost lives. Add to this again the burden of spending so much to provide for one member of the family while leaving the others malnourished and it becomes a vicious cycle of health issues.

11. Donations are hard to manage, track and properly distribute in our country over an average typhoon, what more a catastrophe that wiped out entire areas. Pre-packaged baby kits with a formula in each bag will have to be repacked, otherwise other babies will be put at risk. All formula cans would have to come with the necessary accessories, otherwise, it will put babies at risk. Prevention by banning formula donations reduces logistics nightmares, public health issues and loss of lives for the government.

12. 16,000 children age five and below are estimated to die every year in the country from diseases that are linked to formula feeding. This number will surely rise when measures are not taken to control formula feeding (especially in cases when babies are beyond age 1) and closely monitor formula distribution in shelters.

13. The ban on milk donations is not about breastfeeding being superior to formula feeding. It is about the greater good in a time of chaos and limited resources. Breastfeeding and formula feeding are also not just feeding issues, but during war and calamities, both become bigger public health issues.

14. The people who will be left in evacuation centers are the truly marginalized ones, without family or friends who can take them in. Post-Yolanda, we are looking at thousands of families. Not only will they be short of funds (which will challenge again the sustainability of formula feeding), they will have limited options. Some of these families also have multiple children of varying ages where it becomes all the more critical that fewer or none will be reliant on powdered milk for sustenance and nutrition. This references to the growing trend of milk-dependent toddlers/preschoolers when eating solids is most beneficial for them.

15. The difference with calls for breast milk donations and milk letting drives is that the breastfeeding groups behind these ensure that donated breast milk is not compromised (cold chain project) as opposed to the usual unmonitored distribution of formula without the necessary paraphernalia and information. Donated breast milk is also pasteurized and given through the use of cups, which makes it safer than formula. Perhaps, because breast milk donation is very personal in nature, its advocates take more care in making sure nothing gets wasted, as opposed to a general donation of formula wherein cans might be left under the heat of the sun or water used in formulation might be dirty. Donor milk is also not distributed indiscriminately because the goal is always to ensure safe and sustainable feeding so its recipients usually are moms in the process of relactation or babies who have been separated from their mothers.

The government and concerned agencies are just looking out for these children and their families for the short and long-term. The international standards are rigid because it has been proven time and again in emergency situations all over the world that indiscriminate formula donations just create problems and cost lives.


Now, people who really want to help these babies can send cash donations instead to trusted agencies or send food, care and emergency shelter kits for their families. Let us relieve the parents of some of their immediate worries and burdens, so that they can care for their children better. And may these truths reassure everyone that this stance the Philippine government has taken is a good one.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Breastfeeding is Not Just a Feeding Issue For Your Baby

Yes... it is very common for breastfeeding moms to get soooo exhausted because their babies do not want to be away from them. They just want to park on our breasts, we cannot even get up to pee. Every time they see us, they only want one thing, and won't even consider playing with us after.

Babies NEED their moms. I think most moms do not really know how much,

If we didn't take care of ourselves while pregnant, where would baby be? Their health and safety was totally dependent on ours. What a responsibility!

And then, if that wasn't enough, here we are, letting them become totally dependent on us after birth. When we do things, how we do things, how long we can be away, what we will wear, eat, do... all will have to adjust to our feeding schedule.

And have I mentioned that we cannot even pee? I have?  Well, imagine going through that almost every day... baby taking hours to settle down and at the first slightest movement to get up and pee, she wakes up and sucks with gusto. If I could pee in a diaper, I would have went that way, I swear.

But in all those hassles hide the truth... that we aren't just food for our baby. In fact, food is the last thing they get and need from us (because, after all, formula HAS been invented already). What are we then?

We are SAFETY, SECURITY and SHELTER, the most imperative of all the needs after food. When we keep holding them close, we tell them that the person they knew in utero is the same person out here that grew them and loved them and whispered prayers for them and dreamed dreams for them. They learn that they belong to us, and we belong to them. They learn they could depend on us.

When we touch them all the time and hold them all the time, we boost their immunity.

When they get our milk, they get antibodies and probiotics... which they don't really understand. They just intuitively know that when they are feeling sick, only our milk helps.

For one to understand that, maybe you can think of critically ill people instead... wherein no drugs can help anymore, but the only thing that can soothe is a loving touch, a loving presence.

We are WARMTH and LOVE and ALL THINGS WELL... for them. Because at our side of the fence, we are all things tired, sleepy, feeling violated and pressed upon. How unfair?

But what we sometimes feel is a drudgery (I will be honest, there were many times I felt it was so much responsibility) is actually God's way of training us to give... sometimes, till it hurts. To keep our eye on the goal. To be patient. To trust. To marvel at God's amazing design. To learn how to unconditionally give and love. To invest in things we may never see (as breastfeeding benefits are lifelong, and we may not be around to know for sure that our daughter did not have breast cancer).

Breastfeeding teaches us about our body's amazing capabilities and redefines what we know of motherhood.
So, despite the tiredness and tears and lack of sleep... when your baby demands for you, know that she is turning to you to satisfy a deeper hunger. Not one for food but for a need to know that AAL IZZ WELL (sorry, 3 Idiots fan).


This is a privilege, not just a responsibility. Because, sooner than we think, our babies will have grown up into self-assured kids exploring the world... and the most that we can do for them is guide them. We will not be HEAVEN for them forever.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Celebrities Endorsing Milk and Our War Against Underhanded Marketing Strategies by Milk Companies

This may very well be a loooong post and yes, biased FOR breastfeeding. Hopefully though, this will explain why breastfeeding advocates are against celebrities (and by this, I mean politicians, TV/movie/ad/music/sports personalities, anybody else famous or with name recall, etc) endorsing milk as a strategy employed by milk companies.

As a backgrounder, a popular celebrity family recently posted that they are giving away a year's supply of powdered milk (their firstborn's milk) for some contest (I think) which greatly saddened breastfeeding advocates. Here are the thoughts that ran through my head while I was feeling frustrated over this:

follow-on milk / toddler milk / preschooler milk/ adult milk is unnecessary

I swear, it is a fact. Nowhere in the existence of man was it necessary for humans to be dependent on milk beyond infancy (which ends when babies hit 1 year old) for nourishment. But yes, the worldwide average for weaning is closer to age 4, mainly because that is also the time a human being stops making lactase, the enzyme that digests the lactose in milk. Toddlers also benefit from the  antibodies and probiotic in their momma's milk as they explore more of this world. 

But here's a crash course for you. When the Americans came (you know, that time in our history when they colluded with Spain and drew up a mock battle but actually bought the Philippines for around 20 million dollars? Remember now?), they wanted to create a market for their goods. One thing they brought in was formula. And since Filipinos are very accommodating, we gobbled their "wisdom" up that formula is superior milk. 

Fast forward to now, the Milk Code has regulated commercials of formula/milk for kids 3 years and below. Unfortunately, in the hundred years it has been sold here, milk companies are now earning at least P40B yearly. Yes, we made for a lucrative market. From a culture where breastfeeding was the norm, even for toddlers, we became milk guzzlers instead. What is worse, there is now that prevalent thinking among the common folk that formula milk is better and "only the poor" nurse their own babies.

But the fact is, what humans need for life is CALCIUM, not milk. And as much as milk companies say their products provide calcium, the truth really is the cow's milk (where these products are mostly derived from) leeches off calcium from our bones. Why? Because it is meant for calves! It just becomes this acidic mess in our guts. And the pasteurization that strips it of bacteria also removes the enzymes which will allow humans to digest it.Unfortunately, pasteurization does not remove the hormones fed to cows that were milked for our powdered milk. 

So, again... what is a formula company to do if it cannot advertise for their formula? Create follow-on milk instead. Now, they have toddler milk, preschool milk, regular milk, pregnant mom's milk and milk for old people. The milk companies created a DEMAND for it by putting the idea across that we need it.

But WE DON'T! 

We need calcium! 

But their powdered milk is fortified with Iron! Of course, because drinking cow's milk makes a person iron deficient. How? It causes micro bleeding in the gut (because we are digesting food that is meant for a 4-compartment stomach) and interferes with iron absorption. 

In other words, parents giving their very young kids milk are contributing to potential anemia and lactose intolerance for them. 

Some studies already suggest that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers who drink milk/take in other allergenic food while pregnant/breastfeeding increase the chances of their babies developing skin allergies. And yet, more and more OBs are prescribing formula milk for mamas

But how many of the educated population know of this truth about milk? And how many of the marginalized?

do the Math!

A P40B (and more) industry spends around P1B to market its products yearly. Marketing includes giving away samples, wooing doctors (who will give away the free samples OR prescribe the products), paying for print and TV ads.

Meanwhile, as per Milk Code, breastfeeding groups are limited in who they can approach to sponsor breastfeeding classes and events. Breastfeeding does not provide livelihood (except for Nanay Ines' Arugaan community of wet nurses and massage therapists) and will certainly not make anyone rich. 

enter the celebrity endorsers and strategists in milk companies

Milk companies often target celebrity endorsers with a child who is still more likely breasfeeding. Why else would they have gotten Judy Ann Santos and Claudine Baretto before to promote preschooler milk after  these celebs just had babies? I mean, surely, these celebs' adopted kids were already capable of drinking milk even before there were babies in the house. But no, let us wait until they've just given birth a few months before. Right?

Why would they approach Gladys Reyes, of the "thank God I was breastfeeding because we were stuck in our terrace/rooftop during Ondoy" fame to endorse preschooler milk while she also had an infant (and breastfed child during Ondoy is now the one supposed to THRIVE on powdered milk)? 

Why would they approach a family with some 2 million followers on FB, a source of inspiration to so many people, to hold a contest and provide a year's supply of the powdered milk their firstborn drinks (which is a potential Milk Code violation)?

Oh and have you noticed how they present their commercials for these follow-on milk? 

Child isn't eating right, but fortunately there's this powdered milk that gives all the nutrients listed in the food pyramid. 

Child is thriving, and fortunately there is this powdered milk that helps meet his needs. 

You are being prepped to buy either way. But again, do they tell you that the milk they advertise also compromises your child's health? Do you see or hear somewhere in the ad that this milk may worsen the common cold because it is mucus-forming and that cow's milk is top on the list of highly allergenic food? No?

now, let's do better, pro-Filipino Math

Let us say a celebrity endorser gets paid a million pesos (at least) for a milk ad. That buys them what? A trip abroad? A home extension? More money to invest? New clothes? 

Now, let's assume that because she is a celebrity, she can influence people's choices. Follow-on milk will cost a middle-income family between P2,000-3,000 monthly. That is about one to two weeks' worth of wet market allowance for my family of five (this includes our helper, and yes, we generally eat healthy so that is mostly for fish and veggies). That means, for middle income families, money that can be used for the rest of the family is just being used for one. Or, money that can be saved instead is being used on milk alone. And if there is an infant, money that can be used for that infant't vaccinations is being used to buy milk for the older sibling. 

See how it can be a recipe for poverty?

Meanwhile, for already struggling families, shooting for follow-on milk for a child may be suicide. But it happens. Instead of JUST feeding a child cooked food, they will prepare milk no matter how diluted, or break their backs to earn money to buy milk (leading to compromised health). More unfortunately, the marginalized do not think past the celebrity and milk and hype. They do not note that this is follow-on milk NOT MEANT for infants, all they hear is the jazz (intelligence! strong bones! edge! etc ). And since such is a recipe for diarrhea and malnutrition, how do we compute the cost now?

And what does the milk sales bring milk companies? New cars, condos, buildings and businesses for their main stakeholders.

But don't milk companies employ Filipinos? Yes, they do :)  Let's say around 2,000 families are benefited by salaries and free milk. And I am pretty sure those families feel grateful for the employment. Thus, shouldn't our government be indebted to them? Uhmmm... not really since there are 16,000 deaths annually that can be traced to wrongful formula feeding and diseases directly addressed by breastfeeding. Click here for other costs of formula feeding (just in case you want to add in your computation the funeral costs for those 16,000 deaths). Please also try computing the cost for sick leaves for when mothers have to care for sick kids. Trips to an allergist takes all day, after all. And gastric episodes mean long days AND nights. 

I don't know about you but I will never think 16,000 deaths YEARLY  is a price worth paying to keep 2,000 families happy. 

some more reality check, please

Celebrities are generally RICH already by a regular man's standards. Most of them breastfeed even because they are educated enough to know of the benefits.When their children gets sick, they can afford the best doctors, the best treatments, the best supplements. They can afford organic food. They can afford nutritionists if need be. They can afford the best schools, the best tutors, the best learning systems to ensure smart kids. 

And some of them do not even really use the products they endorse. Ssshhh. 

But us mere mortals, we are lucky if we have an HMO for checkups and emergency hospitalizations. And the poor? Why, good luck if they even get a turn at the nebulizer in a government hospital when they are having an asthma attack. 

with great power comes great responsibility

While we cannot take away a celebrity's right to want to earn a living, and sell whatever they can for a brighter future (and in this, I mean name, reputation, service, etc)... we advocates also cannot help but wish that more of them will think of the repercussions of their actions because nothing ends after the shoot and the ad is shown. The damage happens after, in areas they will never even dream of going to, to families they will never meet. 

When a celebrity says that she is giving her picky eater milk to keep him healthy, parents in other homes do the same, instead of improving their discipline and training their child to eat healthy.

When a celebrity says that all her kid wants is junk food (and since she allows it, it must be okay) so giving milk at least makes her child healthy, other parents do the same... instead of again, keeping junk food out of the home.

When celebrities promote a brand, their fans do not see them as entrepreneurs earning big bucks for said ad but as the beloved character they loved and supported. 

a choice based on lies cannot be an informed choice

There are enough documentary videos and interviews that point to milk ads for turning breastfeeding families into mix feeding and purely formula feeding families. There are enough commercials that have swayed families into continuing to give milk to kids, some of whom have yayas outside their schoolrooms to prepare milk in feeding bottles! Mothers and in-laws will even recommend/impose certain brands because their idols "said" it makes for better brain development or stronger builds.

These choices are based on lies. And because these aren't informed choices, breastfeeding advocates cannot honor them by staying quiet while more families get financially and health compromised.

I posted this as comment on Breastfeeding Pinay:  If you are educated, think for yourself and have options (by virtue of income and connections) then be grateful that you aren't part of the 60-70% of the population who cannot make the same informed choices that you can. And it is the marginalized and ignorant WE (advocates) are protecting and giving a voice to, which will also mean that we will forever frown over such practices.

breastfeeding is not just a feeding issue, it is a public health issue
I will admit, a judgmental part of me wonders how these celebrities can sleep at night :D  (Because I am already assuming the milk companies to be purely motivated by earnings)

I was reminded by a friend that not everyone are like us. That translates to so many things.

Not all these moms know what we know. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.They may still be really nice people but they also might not care as much as we do for the things that we do care about... like child health, and maternal health and the environment. After all, not all of us are meant to further breastfeeding advocacy. Some will build NGOs for education, some will help pastor families, some will help in drug rehab. 
They may be religious but not fully realize that they can effect better change.

But most probably, they, like most of the population, think of breastfeeding as JUST a feeding issue. So, they think of formula and follow-on milk as JUST modern options to feeding a baby/child. They do not see that unless it is medically necessary, formula and follow-on milk do more harm than good. They see milk as something that is purely ingested and nourishes now, and not something that stays in a person to give them allergy and cancer protection (in the case of breastfed toddlers) or increase their risks for diabetes (for children under 5 drinking cow's milk). 

But you, if you have stayed with me down to here... I hope now you know better. And will understand why we cannot support celebrities endorsing milk and fume over the companies that pay them exorbitant amounts they cannot ignore. Formula has its place in the great scheme of things. Follow-on milk? Not so much. Good, locally-produced food is better. And in the fight FOR PUBLIC HEALTH, I wish more celebrities will use their influence for the greater good. 


*~* Meanwhile... inviting you all to these events!!!