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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.


Unknown said...

This is so true. I've had my share of unsolicited advice from well-meaning family members, friends, and even my baby's former yaya (now you know why she's not with us anymore) to give the baby formula for one reason or another. They just can't seem to believe that breastmilk is really the BEST for babies, or that I am producing enough for baby's needs...*sigh*

Melodie said...

Dear Jenny,
I really consider you my personal top authority on breastfeeding in Southeastern Asia. I had no idea the formula companies were marketing to doctors that way in Vietnam! (Giving commissions, targeting low paid doctors). It's so sick!
You are so right about needing to direct breastfeeding awareness to people besides bfing moms. That is why whenever our local Breastfeeding Challenge is held in public I'm so excited! We need to stop preaching to the choir and start finding new creative ways to reach the general public.
great post!

Lucy said...

shared on my FB page!!/pages/2010-Global-Breastfeeding-Challenge-Cedar-Rapids-IA/152314708125114?ref=sgm

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