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!!!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We Cannot Outgive God in Breastfeeding

(I have not blogged for a long while but I have vowed to commit to it again. And what better way than to start the first day of the second half of the year with a reflective  post on breastfeeding, as part of preparing for Breastfeeding Month in August)

There is not one Feast that I do not hear words that resonate with me where I also do not think of how it applies to breastfeeding. Last Sunday, as we were being pep talked into serving, I heard these words: We Cannot Outgive God.

As a LATCH Counselor and BFP Admin, I try to remind mothers that breastfeeding will require a lot from them but the benefits are long term. I even always say, do the Math. Breastfeed for two years and reduce your child's allergy risks for life or give in to formula now and deal with allergies earlier/all your child's life. Breastfeed for two years and reduce mother and baby cancer risks or tempt fate and don't.

Breastfeeding requires a mother to give in a way that is very exhausting, draining, and every moment. Apart from the lack of correct info and support, I think what stumps a lot of moms is the fact that their baby needs them physically for soooo much everyday that they feel like slaves sometimes to a baby's needs and demands. After all, a working Mom can work away from home and earn the money to pay for the child's vaccines, clothes, treats, etc (things a baby also needs). But a breastfeeding working mom will have to find time to pump, ensure the milk won't spoil, etc. Any other mom can just do the chores but a breastfeeding mom will have to stop doing chores for a while and nurse.

But the thing is, when we moms breastfeed, we are doing God's work. After all, He made us mammals :) We are destined to nurse our young as sure as our young were created to feed from us. And whenever we give of our time, our bodies to our little ones, God outgives us.

God makes sure the baby communicates to us what it needs to be given to ensure its health... even before it could talk. (Enteromammary Pathway)

God makes sure our milk is perfectly made, with all the right nutrients, at the right temperature.

God makes sure that our milk does more than nourish, it also protects. And the gut protection our babies receive are lifelong, making them better able to deal with the preservatives and pollution of this world.

God makes sure we benefit as well, because we invoke reduced risks for certain diseases as we do the same for our child.

God makes sure each family need not be unduly compromised financially, and that its other members need not go without food just to feed a baby.

God alerts us the minute a virus gets into our baby's system or when we have not been mindful of their needs (they feed more).

God allows us to be enough for sick toddlers who refuse to eat.

And while all these is happening, our babies literally grow in faith (for this world) in our arms, but remain the right size to nurse from us. How amazing, isn't it?

Alas, such outpouring of grace requires a surrender to Him, however. A surrender to His design, His system. Unfortunately, because of "modern culture", many aren't that open to this truth.

Breastfeeding is not something one really volunteers for, wherein you quit when it is no longer convenient.
Breastfeeding is not a burden to be a slave to, something totally against our will, something we are forced to do, something we do not find happiness over, something that will never uplift us.
Breastfeeding is service, something we do for God because we love Him and because we are grateful to have been blessed with child. We do it with humility and gratitude, and we celebrate its rewards.

Mommies everywhere... we do not breastfeed because we like not having our bodies to ourselves, or that we like having our boobs out, or that we like to leak, or we like to be subjected to critical looks/being chased away from establishments in public, or that we like losing more sleep than we have to, or we like sore nipples and fatigued arms/backs.

Mommies everywhere... us breastfeeding advocates do not fight for every mother and child's right to breastfeed because we like our efforts being undermined by milk companies, or we like being called fanatics, or we like being called judgmental, narrow-minded, etc. We do not like sitting in boring meetings or making-nice with corrupt politicians, or counting the progress we make at a snail's pace.

We do this because we are committed to the truth of God's love for us. We do this because we love our children. We do this because we see our children's faces in other children. We do this because we care about the environment and how families eat. We do this because we want to save lives.

We are not slaves to breastfeeding. It's just that the rewards may take a while... especially if you aren't looking :)  But whatever we give of ourselves in breastfeeding, trust that we receive tenfold.