Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taking Breastfeeding Further

"Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (July). For this month, we join the National Nutrition Council - Department of Health in celebrating Nutrition Month with the theme "Isulong ang Breastfeeding - Tama, Sapat at EKsklusibo!" Participants will share their experiences in promoting breastfeeding or their tips on how breastfeeding should be promoted. Please scroll down to the end of this post and check out the other carnival participants."

The most nutritious thing for Nutrition Month is such a perfect theme and there are no words to how amazed and delighted I am that DOH seems to really have embraced breastfeeding advocacy.

Personally, I know I have done a lot for breastfeeding. I certainly talk about it a lot, and can talk about it for hours (nay, days). I have blogged about it many times, not just my journey but things that frustrate me, and things I have learned. I have even blogged about the best nursing tops to breastfeeding-related events. When Ondoy struck, I joined three breastfeeding missions (Rizal, Pasig and Laguna). I have also joined L.A.T.C.H. to know more about breastfeeding and be trained as a breastfeeding peer counselor.

I also literally troll my yahoogroups and forums for those with breastfeeding queries and in need of support.

And I breastfeed in public, very seldom with cover, because I actually hope to inspire other people to think about how 'natural' it is.


I have only volunteered for two TMC sessions, so far. And I do get weary answering the same questions... and sometimes also lack tact and gentleness when I do respond to them. For a while, I was even very judgmental of how other mothers can choose formula over breast. My current pet peeves are Judy Ann Santos and "I just gave birth and I don't have milk yet" sentiments. And I have not yet visited the clinic in our street and offered my services there.

In short, there is lots of room for improvement in me. There is so much more I can do. I can be so much more. And... I can potentially save more lives.

And so I strive to be gentle, even when I am frustrated. I answer the same questions again and again and again. I run the risk of alienating Facebook friends by speaking the truth. And I make sure everyone knows I have taken a side: this side.

Now... I hope I won't be so shy and lacking initiative to approach people of power I can connect with... to bring breastfeeding talks (and thus, awareness) to the masses.


I think this is the perfect time to also blog about things I feel the government can do to further breastfeeding awareness, support and advocacy.

DOH should really work with all other government agencies.

Get DECS to incorporate breastfeeding into children's books (Math sample problem: Nanay pumped milk at 8:00 AM and was able to express 3 ounces of milk. If she does the same two more times with the same volume of output, how much milk will she have pumped by the end of the day?... Health sample question: Give three examples of galactagogues.) and improve the medical curriculum to actually include a subject on breastfeeding for would-be doctors/medical practitioners. Children have to be enculturated back to a time when breastfeeding was natural and typical and common. The campaign with kids and in schools need not be aggressive, but pictures and storylines of making formula for a child just really has to be stopped and in their stead, more pictures of breastfeeding/babywearing indigenous cultures.

Get a law enacted to prohibit any entity from giving free samples of formula.

Tweak maternity leave due to mothers. While other countries enjoy up to a year of maternity leave with security of tenure, I really don't think our economy can afford that luxury. But I think we can improve on our current maternity leave by making it two months plus all Wednesdays till the 6th month. This ensures that working mothers will have that Wednesday breather from the stress of pumping at work. It just might also fuel productivity since working moms will know it's only 2 days before they can take care of their babies and directly breastfeed again. That's basically just 16-18 extra days that are potentially the same number of days a new mom has to be absent/goes to work unproductive due to a new baby/sick child.

Quit with the generic "breastfeeding is best for babies up to two years and beyond" bit in TV ads/formual cartons/posters. Have catchier slogans ("human milk for human babies"), funny cartoons or outright correct information instead ("breastfeeding reduces cancer risks for both mother and child" or "exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months can save you at least P20k, which you can use to spend on vaccines").

Maybe, DOH can also get volunteers (nutrition students' practicum? hehe) or work with hospitals to hold impromptu talks for waiting preggos in OB clinics.

Instead of breastfeeding stations wherein you have to invest in separate rooms, maybe public areas like malls can allocate seating areas with signs saying, "if you're breastfeeding, sit here" :D (well, it can double as rest area for preggos and the elderly too).

And can it be made a practice for OB Gyns to instruct a prenatal consult with the pedia, who can then discuss feeding and caring options/information with the parents?

The thing is, since breastfeeding benefits a lot of aspects (health, environment), there should also be a more wholistic and concerted approach to its promotion. And we have to support the mothers most because it generally is their battle, their investment, their lifestyle change. And the government should feel free to tax tobbaco and milk companies more to finance these endeavors... hehe... after all, breastfeeding reduces cancer risks and allergy risks, which smoking and formula milk perpetrate.


Please find the time to also read the entries of the other Milk Mamas joining this carnival :)

Dainty Mom reminds not to bash formula feeders

Lazy Mama also encourage breastfeeding in public and Legally Mom doesn't do it in nursing stations
and Frannie pumps even with male colleagues around

The Painter's Wife is informed and fearless

Dinna, the low milk supply mommy did it

We also get breastfeeding promotion tips from a fearless formula feeder which offers a lot of insights

I would also love a billboard on EDSA featuring celebs with mass appeal

Benz is the chillax advocate but oh, has she the influence

Breastfeeding Mama prepared herself for it and Rachel just hearts breastfeeding

Reach out to other moms, be encouraging to them and maybe we can really push for longer maternity leaves

Having the right information and support will help moms who weren't succesful do better next time, since the right psychology can help you succeed

And here's Deng, who actually stars in some breastfeeding ads while June breastfeeds with her sisters.

And as the perfect cap, a juxtapostion of Jenny's take on breastfeeding promotion in the Philippines and what a doctor Mum wants to see in UK


Legally Mom said...

This is one great post.

I agree with you that it's time to drop the "Breastmilk is BEST for babies...".

First, as you've pointed out, our marketing gurus here could come up with catchier slogans. I just hope that they won't get the people behind DOT's Pilipinas Kay Ganda. :)

Second, the use of the word "best" sends out a subliminal message that formula is GOOD. So why exert extra effort to breastfeed when the alternative is good enough naman pala? Breastmilk is not the best for babies. It's the NORMAL, the NATURAL milk for human babies. Let's see how the marketing geniuses of multi-national companies address that.

Jenny said...

heehee mec, we have similar takes on how DOH should proceed! coordination with various government agencies is really crucial. plus strict implementation of the laws. giving out of formula samples is actually prohibited but well, if no one reports, then they get away with it. and the penalties are so small that it's really just small change for the companies.
As Fritzie said, Breastfeeding is not BEST, it is NORMAL. So when will be stop seeing baby bottles being used to symbolize a new baby, used in baby showers, baptisms, to show a baby room, etc etc.? in this generation hopefully!

Nats Velasco-Tan said...

Great insights! Lets hope DECS, DOLE and DTI take into consideration how they can help DOH promote breastfeeding. Thanks also for the taking the time to read my post. Take Care, mommy Mec

Dr Sarah said...

I love all these practical suggestions! Thank you.

Jhan said...

Hi Mec,

got ur link frm Sis Escie's post on breastfeeding. I'm a N@wie too di nga lng active.

nways, i'll add u on my blog list ha?

keep on writing... i know i can learn a lot from mommies like you.