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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Breastfeeding Moms can Help Ondoy's Victims

In my previous post, I shared how breastfeeding her Yohann helped young mom Yoly cope with the flooding brought about by Ondoy to her residence. This morning, I received an article from Alex of UNICEF/WHO, which was prepared by the International Code Docmentation Centre on The Code and infant feeding in emergencies. Apparently, in droughts, floods, earthquakes and other calamaties in various parts of the world, milk, feeding bottles and teats manufacturers have been actively donating their products to evacuation centers. Thus, there have been several code violations in times of emergencies, such as milk donations from foreign governments with milk products labeled in a foreign language during the Java earthquake in 2006, donation of formula by a service organization during the civil unrest in East Timor in 2002 and many more.
Donations such as these send out the wrong messages to mothers in the evacuation centers - undermining established breastfeeding programs or worse -- suggesting to moms that formula milk will be healthier for babies during the times of emergencies as moms themselves do not have enough food to eat. Click picture below to see do's and don'ts in emergency infant feeding.

In times of emergencies such as these, people are panick-y and easily believe anything. It is a myth that stressed or malnourished moms cannot breastfeed. There is also no need for huge donations of formula milk to evacuation centers. There is more reason to be vigilant during an emergency to ensure the protection of breastfeeding.
If you are a Pinoy breastfeeding mom, you can help by donating some of your breastmilk to the Philippine General Milk Bank. Dr. Mianne Silvestre, noted neonatologist and breastfeeding advocate, is spearheading the milk collection which will be pasteurized and cup-fed to babies in evacuation centers. You can call PGH at 5548400 loc. 3409 for instructions on how to donate.
If PGH is too far from you, you can also go to The Medela House - express and donate your milk there. The Medela Moms, Maricel and Beng will provide the milk bags where you can put your expressed milk for donating. Milk donations will be accepted until 4pm today, 30 September 2009. The Medela Moms has also agreed to subsidize the cost of feeding cups for donation. Feeding cups are P60 each but The Medela Moms will shoulder half the cost.
Breastmilk is clean, free and always available. Whatever few ounces each lactating mom can donate will add up and make a huge difference in the lives of the baby victims of Typhoon Ondoy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Breastfeeding in the face of Ondoy

Last Saturday, the Philippines was hit with a storm of epic proportions -- which resulted in the worst flooding in the past 40 years. This post is so déjà vu. For this year, the theme for World Breastfeeding Week was "Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response Are you ready?" I joined a blogging carnival in August and I wrote about that here. I talked about how the Philippines is always hit by typhoons which is why moms need to be informed and supported to be able to breastfeed successfully. Being able to breastfeed helps moms worry about one thing less (what to feed their baby) in the face of disaster.
Then again, when we are
thinking about donations, one of the issues UNICEF said to watch out for is the common donor impulse to send infant formula or breast milk
substitutes to disaster zones. In current news reports, among the items being asked for is milk - formula for infants.
A friend shared with me that her cousin, 9 month old niece and yaya (nanny) were stuck on the rooftop of their house in Riverside, Marikina - one of the areas worst hit by Ondoy. They had to lug containers of clean drinking water to the roof to be able to prepare formula milk. The mom and baby were eventually rescued by the US Navy. Initially, the US Navy only wanted to get the baby first - I really don't understand why there is a need to separate the mother and baby. The mom refused so both were evacuated. I wonder what happened to the yaya though?
Meanwhile, I was able to receive a text from Yoly who share that her house was totally flooded last Saturday and her family did not get a chance to cook any food. However, thanks to the magic of mama's milk, her son Yohann did not go hungry at all because he had an unlimited supply of clean milk to drink -- perfect example of the benefits of breastfeeding in times of calamities.
Death toll from Ondoy has now reached 240 people while almost 400 thousand people are now in evacuation centers. Economic damage is pegged at P1.4B ($30M). Readers who want to help can check out this Google Landing Page.
With another storm brewing, estimated to hit the Philippines later this week, there is more reason to promote breastfeeding and encourage moms to persevere. In times of emergencies such as this, breastfeeding moms don't have to worry about clean water to make their babies' milk and will always be confident that their babies will not go hungry, as experienced by Yoly.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Do you really need a pump?

Welcome to the Carnival of Breastfeeding for September. For this month's carnival, the theme is breastfeeding and working. Please check out the other contributing bloggers linked at the bottom of this post. :D
When I found out about this month's theme, I got really excited as I’ve been living and breathing breastfeeding and working for almost 2 years now. I've written several posts on this topic, from maintaining my milk supply to making breastfeeding part of my daily life. I even have an entire series on how to set up a lactation program policy in the workplace. In my 2 recent talks for LATCH and MommySense, I gave presentations on how to continue breastfeeding even after returning to work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What to Expect During L.A.T.C.H's Best Beginnings Class

Despite having given a presentation during a breastfeeding event with 500+ moms and organizing a breastfeeding awareness festival at work, I had yet to participate in L.A.T.C.H.'s primary activity - the monthly free breastfeeding class at The Medical City. I began my training to be a LATCH peer counselor in March 2009. Since then, there had been about 5 monthly classes. However, I was always either out of town or had other family commitments. Finally, I was able to volunteer during the September class.
As expected, I was tasked to talk about the "Returning to Work" presentation. Since only 2 LATCHers volunteered to present, I was also asked to present the "Breastfeeding Treasures". Judy, my partner that day, discussed what to expect during the first week and breastfeeding myths.
There are several breastfeeding classes held by various individuals. What makes the LATCH class unique is that it is very light and spontaneous. It is also the only class which is held at a hospital and includes the participation of pediatricians. However, it doesn't mean that you need to deliver at The Medical City in order to attend the free class.
During the September class, we were graced with the presence of our pregnant President, Buding, who began the class with a brief introduction of LATCH as an organization - our vision, mission, goals and activities. I was up next, with a short game of Breastfeeding Treasures - which invited couples to identify the benefits of breastfeeding. It was my first time to do the benefits and I was really nervous. It was an interactive presentation, with prizes to boot! Luckily, I was assisted by my fellow LATCHer, Jenny (who was a veteran in attending the classes). I had my break when Judy talked about getting started - what to do before giving birth, what books to read, and how to prime yourself to breastfeed. Judy also discussed the early days -- which are the most challenging days for 1st time parents! This presentation was super helpful since it shows parents how to find an answer to their biggest concern --> is my baby getting milk?
We also showed a Breast Crawl filmed by UNICEF in India. We also have a breast crawl video filmed in Fabella Hospital - which I thought was more poignant and heartwarming. However, due to some technical problems, it would not play on the computer. Hopefully, this technical issue will be resolved in the upcoming classes.
After a short break (with yummy snacks), we broke off into small groups for LATCH's signature break-out groups. During this period, a group of 4-5 couples will be working with 1 LATCH counselor, who will show them how to properly position and latch their babies. This session is complete with props and is more intimate, allowing couples to participate in the discussions.
We went back to the classroom set-up after the break-out groups session. Since our time was limited, Judy and I had to breeze through returning to work and breastfeeding myths. During my presentation, I discussed how working moms can still continue providing breastmilk to their babies even while they are at work, how to maintain their milk supply and how to store their milk properly. Judy then busted several breastfeeding myths which still persist despite the promotion of breastfeeding awareness.
A pediatrician from The Medical City, Dr. Christina Bernardo discussed the history of formula milk in the Philippines. She was also able to address several concerns and respond to the questions of the expectant couples.
The LATCH class was not limited to first-time parents, some participants were 2nd and 3rd time parents who were not successful in breastfeeding their other babies. I was happy to see that they were still interested to learn and perserved to succeed in breastfeeding their coming babies.
Free breastfeeding classes such as this one should be staples in hospitals throughout the country. Various hospitals are now coming up with their own wellness or education classes on healthy living, women's health, geriatrics -- why not one on breastfeeding?
I'm currently in talks with a pediatrician to organize a similar class in another hospital in the Manila area. Since Dr. S is very very busy, she hasn't had time to lay down the administrative groundwork for her hospital. I'm really interested in volunteering for classes in this hospital since this is much closer to my house than The Medical City. Hopefully, by 2010, monthly breastfeeding classes will already be organized, not only in this Manila hospital but in more hospitals in other parts of Metro Manila.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why Breastfeeding Awareness Should Be Directed To Everyone Aside From The Nursing Mom

All of the breastfeeding workshops, trainings, seminars or information sessions I attended are always targeted towards moms and their partners. But it is really the people around the nursing mother who influence or affecther decisions in breastfeeding. However, it is difficult to include these people/family members in seminars as they do not see the need or realize the importance of promoting breastfeeding within their family.
When I was a fun-loving single, my brother (J), his girlfriend (M) and their son lived with me and my sister. M moved in with us while she was still pregnant. Upon Nephew's birth, Sister and I were very excited to take care of him. M tried to breastfeed Nephew but found that she had little or no milk. I was not too concerned with breastfeeding at that time as I wanted to be the one to take care of Nephew. So Sister and I happily gave Nephew the bottle and never encouraged M to continue breastfeeding Nephew. When I became pregnant with Naima, I was likewise bombarded with "formula-friendly" gifts and advice. I received all the small bottles of Naima's older cousins with the advice to purchase new nipples for these bottles. The book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" (notorious for giving bad-BF advice) was also handed down to me. I was also not yet sure that I would really be breastfeeding (for long) as I had heard about the difficulties of sustaining it. So I bought myself a set of BPA-free bottles and studied what brand of formula to give Naima. I did not buy any single breastfeeding-related item and did not even think about checking out breastfeeding information on the internet.
My mom told me - hey you should breastfeed - without any other information on how to do it, or the difficulties to be encountered (my siblings and I were all formula-fed). She knew about the benefits of breastfeeding but not having done it herself, she couldn't give me any concrete information about what to expect, what to watch out for, etc. etc. One of my aunts also told me that it was ok to give formula to my baby - that I shouldn't really feel bad if I can't breastfed because formula-fed babies still turned out great.I was lucky that I didn't have to deal with my mother-in-law. My husband's sister was an exclusive pumper for 6 months and whenever my mother-in-law said something contrary to breastfeeding, I just keep silent, talk to my sister-in-law and my sister-in-law will call her mother and explain why breastfeeding is best. I know a lot of nursing moms whose breastfeeding goals are cut short (especially when they go back to work) because of mother-in-laws who are too eager to give formula to their grandchildren.
Unsupportive family members are not the only people that need to be educated. Even the nursing mom's friends need to be targeted. More often than not, during baby showers these well-meaning friends give the mom-to-be anti-breastfeeding presents like bottles or formula containers, sterilizers, etc. There are several websites with suggestions on how to create a "Breast Basket" or breastfeeding friendly baby shower. Friends would definitely be doing the pregnant honoree a favor by choosing to be conscious about the gifts to purchase for the baby shower.As for the general public, there have been steps to increase awareness such as public information messages by L.A.T.C.H. and MommySense Davao. But more needs to be done to combat the P1B budget that formula companies allocate for their marketing/advertising expenses. In fact, in recent news, the aggressive marketing tactics of formula milk companies (e.g. giving health workers commission for each can sold, targetting low paid doctors) have reported to be the main cause of the lowering of Vietnam's breastfeeding rates to 17% (even worse than the Philippines, at 34%). Meeting these formula companies head-on through ads will be a huge challenge, considering that budgets for breastfeeding advertisement are miniscule compared to the advertising budgets of milk companies. Thus, it is all the more ideal to start small - by encouraging the pregnant mom and her family to support breastfeeding. A dedicated supporter of the advocacy is indeed a formidable foe to combat the huge advertising budgets of the milk companies.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Upcoming Classes at The Medela House

The Breastfeeding Club will be holding a 3-part series of breastfeeding classes at The Medela House on September 26, October 24 & November 28. Classes will be conducted by Abbie Yabot (Philippine certified lactation consultant) and are described as follows:

Breastfeeeding 101 which covers the basics of breastfeeding, advantages, positioning, latch & myths – best taken while pregnant until the first 2 months of the baby.

Breastfeeding 202 tackles going back to work, pumping & storage, nutrition & teething…. Practically everything from baby’s 2nd month until his 1st year.

Breastfeeding 303 is for expert moms & dads who want to learn more about toddler breastfeeding, weaning, multiples, tandem nursing & attachment parenting among others.

For more information, contact Maricel or Beng: The Medela House, #29 1st St., New Manila, Quezon City (725-3723, 738-6272, 0917-5614366). Coming from Greenhills, it's before you reach Aurora Blvd. From E. Rodriguez, go past Auora Blvd. It's beside 8 Gilmore Place.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Challenges of Nursing a Toddler

Painting by Jonahmar Salvosa of Velvet Escario-Roxas, nursing her eldest daughter J.Hye
Now that Naima is a walking, talkative toddler, I've been hearing a lot of those "up to when will you nurse her" questions and comments. Several oldies had suggested that I wean Naima when she started walking. Others are surprised upon seeing Naima's full set of teeth (she has about 16 now) and ask me if Naima ever bites when she nurses (she doesn't).

When the Milk Code was first enacted, milk companies were required to put this statement on their products: "Breastfeeding is best for babies up to 2 years." However, despite this requirement, members of my generation were most formula-fed babies. Formula milk marketing was so widespread and pervasive. In fact, I can still remember the theme songs of these milk companies when promoting their products! The wording of the required warning was eventually changed to "Breastfeeding is best for babies for 2 years and beyond."

However, despite this 2-year age minimum, several friends, acquaintances, relatives are still amazed that I continue to breastfeed Naima at 21 months. In the early days, I myself did not think that I would be able to sustain breastfeeding beyond 1 year. At her 1st birthday, I wasn’t ready to stop and I didn’t think that she was yet so I extended my goal to 2 years old. Now that Naima’s 2nd birthday is fast approaching, I don’t think that she will be weaning anytime soon. So, I’ve decided to continue breastfeeding Naima when we are together and just wean from the pump by the end of this year.

Breastfeeding trials are not limited during the early days of breastfeeding. Nursing a toddler also presents its own unique challenges. My current pet peeve with Naima is twiddling. Every time she nurses, she loves to twiddle my other nipple, given the chance. Nursing during the day is not so problematic since she is awake and immediately removes her hand when I tell her. But nursing when she is half-awake is beginning to be difficult. I always remove her hand but she struggles and puts her hand back to my other boob. If I cover the other breast, she whines and moves about, disturbing an otherwise peaceful nursing setting.

Naima is also now enjoying solids – very much! She eats frequently and drinks less and less milk. She also has irregular nursing sessions e.g. no more schedules. She nurses whenever she pleases which could be every hour or in intervals of 5 hours! This is why I always take her with me wherever I go during weekends as I never know when the nursing mood strikes her. This leads to another challenge à trying to nurse in public. When Naima was younger, I use a nursing cover when we had to nurse in public. But now that Naima is a wriggly toddler, she refuses to nurse under a cover and wants to see my face when nursing. Happily, I’ve gotten over my issues about nursing in public, although now that she’s a toddler I’ve been more conscious of unwanted comments from other people.

Nursing a toddler certainly has challenges. But every time we cuddle, Naima nurses and touches my face, I can’t bear the thought of weaning her yet. I really look forward to our nursing sessions, especially since I work out of home and am away from her about 10 hours a day. These sessions are our quiet bonding sessions. At this time, I certainly don’t look forward to the day when Naima will simply stop asking for “MIK, MIK, MIK.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Experiences of a Breastfeeding Father

During my office's Breastfeeding Awareness Festival, we were very lucky to have Adam Roxas as one of the resource speakers. Adam is husband to Velvet Escario-Roxas, a breastfeeding counselor. The Roxases are parents to 2 lovely girls J.Hye and Vo'gel (whose birth was the first recorded water birth in the Philippines). One of the complaints of dads is that they don't get to become close or share in the joys of parenthood when the moms are breastfeeding. However, as Adam shares, there are other ways that a dad can bond with and be close to his children, even without giving them a bottle.

by Jonathan Adam Roxas

My day-to-day job entails me to spend most of my time in front of computers since I am IT by profession. However I am more proud to say that I am a parttime nanny for my two daughters. My name is Adam and I am a breastfeeding father.

Like any profession, IT profession takes on a career path. You start in a cadetship program, then as a Junior programmer, then you progress to a Senior programmer, a Manager and so on and so forth. The hardest part is when you’re a fresh graduate learning the new ropes of the corporate world. Learning a new software language each time could be quite difficult. Over time it would get easier but trickier too.

My cadetship program started when I got married. Unlike most fathers, my sense of fatherhood began not when my wife gave birth but when we discovered that there was a new life inside of her. There was an overwhelming feeling of fastpaced change from being single to being married to being a father. Pregnancy was a new software language that I needed to learn.

We’re originally from the Visayas – originally from Cebu City and Maasin City, Southern Leyte. The downside to this was we didn’t have too many friends to support us and no relatives surrounding us. The upside to this was that we were on a survival mode. We needed to be equipped to be able to overcome this pregnancy stage. We read books, browsed the internet and went to childbirthing classes. Back then, we never thought of breastfeeding. My wife was terrified of needles and I was silently terrified of the expenses incurred during childbirth. At these classes, we learned breathing techniques, pregnancy exercises, fetal growth, stages of delivery and newborn care which included breastfeeding.

We set our goal to have normal deliveries and not even thinking of any back up plan in case there will be complications. To support the plan, I ensure that my wife follows her schedules for exercises, to take her vitamins and to eat nutritious foods. This is the portion where I turned into a nagging husband because of the lazy and stubborn lady I’m sleeping with. Birthing plan for our second daughter was more challenging since my wife decided to have the delivery in water.

Much to my surprise I became my wife’s birthing coach. The most important of which is to be her cheerleader. The only thing missing at the delivery room was my pompoms to remind her that she can do it! She successfully did Lamaze birthing the first time and waterbirth for the second child. I would to rate myself as an excellent birthing coach but my wife insists I wasn’t so because I forgot to massage her back or that I forgot the camera.

Just as I was getting adept at my wife’s pregnancy, I had to learn another new software language: breastfeeding. I needed to learn this new rope. Her pregnancy was easy, childbirth was like a pop in the balloon, however breastfeeding was another story. The most challenging part of breastfeeding was the first three weeks of our elder daughter’s birth. We sucked big time! My wife had nipple pains. She developed low self-esteem: she has low-milk supply, her stomach was bulging, painful episiotomy, there were black patches of skin on her body or any complain she could think of. I think it was just the hormones setting in and the adjustment of the new baby. So I would buy food to cheer her up or surprise her with something just to put a smile on her face.

For three weeks, we were mixed feeding. It was a difficult time for me. I had to work during the day and wake up at dawn to prepare a bottle. Plus there was all these hassle of cleaning the bottles and the shock of seeing the prices of formula milk. Now I was experiencing Freddie Aguilar’s song of ANAK (a very famous and multi-awarded Filipino song….) “at sa gabi napupuyat ang iyong nanay sa pag timpla ng gatas mo”. (“every night your mother hardly sleep just so she can prepare milk for you”). Though we have to change the word nanay (mother) to tatay (father). It was terrible time for me - lots of work and little rest. Fortunately, we met this breastfeeding advocate who helped my wife just by telling her that “you have milk.” Those were the magic words that sparked my wife’s enthusiasm. Three days after, she was exclusively breastfeeding. This was the Lord’s first Mother’s Day gift to her and I think her most memorable one since this was the day she never gave formula to her child. She became upbeat again! I was so happy because that was also the day I didn’t have to buy expensive milk or wake-up to prepare a bottle.

At night, I became my wife’s superhero since I help her reposition the baby because she wants to sleep soundly. During weekends at daytime, I turn into a supernanny. I feed my wife while she breastfeeds or give her pillows to make her feel comfortable. I bathe the babies or change their diapers. I wear my daughters on a babysling. I love rocking them to sleep and letting them rest on my chest. This is one great joy of fatherhood.

For the first time in my life, I was looking at breasts in a different angle. The only concern I had when I was new to breastfeeding was that my wife breastfeeds anywhere even in public places without a single hint of hesitation. The first time I was profusely sweating because I wanted to cover her with a full blanket. But she didn’t seem bothered, so why should I be? Breastfeeding should be an acceptable practice not to be scorned at. Society should begin to look at the baby drawing nourishment and love from the mother rather than her partially exposed breast.

I guess I felt a little jealous of the time that my wife and my daughter spend in breastfeeding. But I refuse to believe that I was not part of it. I just worked a little harder to inject myself in the picture. Mothers and children have a natural bond of nine months in the womb. They bond again through breastfeeding. So, where is the father in the picture? Fathers should not be discounted. After all breastfeeding will never be successful without support. Remember some silly reason of women why they don’t breastfeed is to preserve original form for their husbands. Boobs are for the husbands while breast are designed not only for husband’s pleasure but also for baby’s food. What is a few years of sharing compared to a lifetime of immeasurable benefits?

As the breastfeeding relationship got easier it, it also got trickier. First she was a tiny little baby and then she suddenly turned into someone with a horrendous appetite for breastmilk that she refuses to detach from my wife’s areola. To my knowledge, that was the growth spurt when she turned into a very fat baby. From a well-behaved breastfeeder, she turned into a gymnast. She breastfeeds at different indescribable acrobatic positions. Each stage was always a challenge but each stage has also its rewards. Because of my support and my encouragement, my wife has successfully breastfed our two daughters for five years and counting. We are truly a breastfeeding family- a triad: father-mother-children! Fathers should never underestimate themselves. Their attitudes will either make or break the breastfeeding relationship.

You always reap more than you’ve sown. My daughters are very attached to me. We love spending our Sundays playing at UP sunken garden. During playtime, they would prefer me over their mom because they like rumble and tumble. Unlike my colleagues who are always taking emergency leaves to bring their children to the doctors, my daughters’ immunity is in tiptop shape. They’re very easy to teach and quite smart as I might add. My vows of marriage were strengthened through breastfeeding. Through thick and thin, I was there to support my wife, loving her in so many different ways.

As a breastfeeding father for more than five years, I can say that I now belong to the upper managerial position.

Monday, September 14, 2009

MommySense Davao's Gifts of Breastfeeding

Right after my office's breastfeeding awareness festival, I had to fly off to Davao City to give a talk about Breastfeeding and Working. My talk was part of the "Gifts of Breastfeeding" Meet and Greet Seminar organized by MommySense Davao. I was pleasantly surprised with the turn-out - more than 500 moms registered and participated in the event. The event was featured in a local newspaper, through the column of Davao mom-blogger Wowie Teves. More pictures of the event are available in Wowie's blog.
When I was making my presentation, I asked Lyn who the target audience would be. Lyn said that target audience would be English/Tagalog speakers. However, during the day itself, more Visayan speaking (local dialect) moms came. Yikes! Even though I grew up in Davao, my mom is from Luzon so at home, we use the "Davao Tagalog". Luckily, my exposure to Visayan in school and through my husband (from Cebu) came in handy. I felt that I was able to translate my English presentation to Visayan and make it more understand able to the audience and this was validated by Lyn and Alex - yay!
During the event, MommySense Davao also launched its breastfeeding ad which SM Davao agreed to show in its cinemas, as a public service message.

The "stars" of the ad are MommySense kids who were breastfed (or are still breastfeeding). It is indeed inspiring that breastfeeding advocacy is present not only in Metro Manila. Actually, I was able to talk to Alex of Unicef-Philippines and he mentioned there were more than 7,000+ breastfeeding groups in the country. But these groups are barangay-based and are usually connected with the local health centers.
Despite this huge number, I believe that there is still a need to create groups like MommySense and LATCH in major cities in the country. For one, mothers in the major cities usually give birth in big hospitals (which sad to say are major milk code violators) and do not access government health centers. It is this group of private hospital moms that need to be reached out to be breastfeeding advocacy groups.
It certainly is humbling to be part of groups such as LATCH and MommySense Davao who have been established and whose members have devoted much time, effort and resources to the promotion of breastfeeding in the Philippines. Hopefully, with the success of these organizations, more groups targeted towards middle to upper-middle class moms are established to combat the formula milk companies' grip on infant feeding practices.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Setting Up a Lactation Program at Work - Festival Success!

Finally! August is over and I am happy to report that our Breastfeeding Awareness Festival was a huge success :D Wooohooo! With the help of Ms. D and A of our wellness division and of FA of our training center, we were able to push through with the 2-day festival. I used my network in the mommy bazaar circles and was able to invite interesting exhibitors.

Since this is a "neutral" office, we were able to invite speakers from various breastfeeding groups in Metro Manila. As Judy of Planet Noah shared, this was the first time that she was able to really attend and listen to a wide variety of talks related to breastfeeding. I was also surprised that not only young moms were interested but also grandmothers, singles and dads as well. We included a raffle during the talks to spice things up but generally, the attendees were really interested in what the speakers shared.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Breastfeeding Basics by L.A.T.C.H.

This Saturday, 12 September 2009, L.A.T.C.H. will be conducting a breastfeeding workshop information at The Medical City from 9-12nn. This is a free class on a first come, first serve basis. Classes will be at the 4th Floor, Conference Room 1, take the entrance beside Starbucks. Topics include Breastfeeding Benefits, What to Expect in the First Week, Positioning and Latching, Back to Work and Busting Breastfeeding Myths. For inquiries, you can call TMC at 635-6789, loc. 6444. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How to take breastfeeding photographs

Being married to a photographer has perks. Naima's growing up years have been very well chronicled. Among the top photographs that Stan took which I will really cherish are Naima and my breastfeeding photographs, taken from when she was still a newborn to a couple of weeks ago. We have an array of photos showing Naima in different ages but all breastfeeding. I believe it is important to preserve these intimate moments between mother and child and I look forward to the day when I will share them with Naima.
My husband's studio, The Stork Studio is focused on taking classic baby and children photography and they've been getting more and more requests for breastfeeding photographs. After having attended several lactation consults with me, I'm happy to say that Stan is sometimes able to give his breastfeeding mom clients lactation advice :) That is a pretty unique combination for sure (photographer with lactation tips for free!)
Anyway, I've been after Stan to share his tips on taking breastfeeding photographs. I also found an article which shares tips from Dez Murad, an Australian photographer. Here are some of the tips I compiled from Dez Murad and from my husband, Stanley S. Ong.
  • First, make sure the baby is ready to nurse (but not super hungry) and is not otherwise bothered by wet or dirty diapers.
  • Of course, a professional best knows how to achieve the perfect lighting and pose, but you can also take your breastfeeding photographs at home.
    • Choose natural lighting -- use sunlight and pose by a window.
    • Interact with your baby while breastfeeding (hold your baby's hand, touch her face).
  • You need not bare your breast to take a breastfeeding photograph. Much like nursing in public, you can practice in front of the mirror to see how to much of your breast can be seen when you do a certain pose.
  • If you are looking for a professional photographer to take the photo, contact someone who specializes in either pregnancy photos or baby portraits.
  • Schedule your shoot when your nursing relationship has been established e.g. you've learned how to latch your baby and position her and at a time when your baby/toddler is not cranky.
    • Sessions (whether at home or studio) should not be rushed and a professional baby/children's photographer would know this.
    • When shooting with a professional, discuss the type of photograph you would like and how much of your body you would like to expose.
It is important that the breastfeeding mom is comfortable with the idea of being photographed nursing and feels comfortable with the photographer. In Stan's experience, sometimes moms don't want him to photograph them nursing so his female partner, Ia Genato, takes over. Phone, text or e-mail discussions with your photographer is important so both of you know what to expect from the session.
I feel that it is really important to document this precious moment between mother and nursling. Breastfeeding is the best gift a mom can give to her baby and capturing these moments would make for a priceless memento which your child can treasure when s/he grows up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Balance Sheet

*An edited version of this article came out in the September 2009 issue of "Working Mom" magazine. Check it out! :)

When my daughter was born, I did not think that it was possible for me to go back to a full-time job and leave her in the care of others. My husband, Stan and I, were by ourselves and took care of her 24 hours a day without any help from yayas for the first one and a half months of Naima's life. We had her all to ourselves and despite the sleepless nights and lack of time for our other personal needs, we look back on those days with fondness.

However, I was used to being busy and after having been out of work for almost a year (I had to stop working due to pregnancy issues), I started micromanaging our household. For Stan’s peace of mind and my sanity, I had to go back to work.

I was lucky that Stan allowed me to go back to full-time work gradually. I started with a part-time job – as a research assistant to a lawyer from a multilateral development finance institution, who was finishing her doctorate thesis. I subsequently moved on to a full-time job at a government instrumentality which was about 10 minutes away from home. This was the perfect setting because unlike a law firm job, the hours and job demands were more reasonable, allowing me time to focus on growing Naima and my advocacy, breastfeeding. An added plus was that my boss, a family man himself, also understood the need to maintain the family and worklife balance.

Aside from working full-time, I managed to get certified as a breastfeeding peer counselor and recently started a small business catering to nursing mothers. Along with a couple of other employees, I am also working to set-up a lactation program policy within my workplace. Keeping my work-home balance is not easy but I’ve managed to continue my projects, work full-time and still have quality moments with my family.

During the work week, my yaya and I have Naima’s bathing/feeding/eating schedule fit to a “T”. I have also scheduled my weekends to take care of chores which my house assistants could not handle by themselves. I used to hate last minute cancellations or change of plans but have learned that with a young baby, a combination of routine and flexibility is necessary to make things work and keep me sane. Thus, emergency back-ups need to be prepared and on-hand to cope with these last minute changes.

With a five-day work week, I have decided to make my weekends sacred and reserved for Naima, especially during her early years. In all my weekend activities, I bring Naima with me - from attending breastfeeding seminars or workshops to joining bazaars or going shopping, meeting friends or checking out weekend markets - Naima goes where I go. During the work week, after office hours are reserved for our bonding time. I’ve also given up watching TV, choosing to allot TV time to Naima or my “sideline” (when she is asleep) instead.

Having the consistent, strong and loving support of my husband Stanley is also essential in helping me successfully balance my career and family life. In the early days, when Naima was a fussy newborn, Stan took over all diaper duties as I was dealing with baby blues and breastfeeding issues. He also accompanied me during my visits with various lactation consultants, was my number one cheerleader and kept me going during those days when I doubted myself, my milk supply, and my capacity to soothe a wailing Naima. I do not know how single moms manage it but I definitely would not have survived the first month without Stan.

As Naima is growing up, I guess it also helps that as a photographer, Stan’s schedule is not as rigid as mine. This works perfectly for us as we are able to attend to Naima’s needs with at least one parent present. During the weekdays, Stan takes her to doctor’s appointments and other activities, while I take over during weekends and evenings as most of Stan’s shoots are scheduled during these times.

I have also learned to value and appreciate the participation of my extended family. My mother-in-law is pure Chinese and speaks only Chinese, and some Bisaya. However, this does not stop her from trying to read English board books with Naima or accompanying Naima to her playschool trial classes when Stan and I are not available. Monster-in-law horror stories abound but my experience with my mother-in-law has been great and she is definitely a big help, especially with my own mother living miles away in Davao City.

Filipino moms are lucky to be able to get help from a yaya and have maids to help us or do our household chores. I don’t try to be a martyr and be the “perfect” housewife. I can’t even cook to save my life! So, I choose to plan our menus instead and delegate the cooking responsibility to our helper whose cooking skills have vastly improved, from not knowing how to cook when she arrived in January 2008 to preparing elaborate meals (including laksa) in 2009.

So to sum up, how can one mom raise a spirited daughter, run an efficient household, work full-time, manage a small business, have an advocacy, be a good wife, and still have time for herself?It is not by trying to do everything yourself but focusing on the right priorities, counting on good family support with the humility to accept help and advice, and establishing routines coupled with openness to flexibility and change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Did you want to join an activity to support breastfeeding awareness during August but got busy and didn't join any? There is still 1 more event to join! Now on its 3rd year, the Mommy Milkshake Marathon is a fun, easy race for the entire family! This year's event will be at Fort Bonifacio, behind the NBC Tent. Click here to register for free.
I didn't join the 2007/2008 runs. I'm still thinking if I will join this year's event. The 5am meeting time is really early for me :D But this will be a great opportunity for me to meet other like-minded moms. Hmm.. still 3 more days to think.
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