Unlike IBCLCs or lactation counselor, there is no specific number of training hours or credits needed to be considered a breastfeeding counselor. While IBCLCs take on the difficult issues of breastfeeding, counselors normally handle issues on positioning, latching, first two weeks and are usually able to resolve the questions raised by new nursing moms. What is essential however is that the breastfeeding counselor has received proper training so moms can be correctly advised on their breastfeeding issues.
As one of the counselors shared with me, there are some individuals claiming to be counselors but were not actually trained (and only learned about breastfeeding through observation). Thus, these individuals actually dispensed wrong advice to moms that she had to undo. Especially if you are paying for the counseling time, make sure you get it right the first time.
So who are the counselors in the Philippines? Let me start with LATCH - a group of volunteer moms who were trained as peer counselors. I am a member of LATCH and was trained as a peer counselor in March 2009. LATCH has 2 groups - the co-founders who trained in The Medical City in 2006 and my group of about 25 peer counselors who were trained by the co-founders. For my group, we had to attend 2 days worth of 8-10 hours of sessions and take an exam based on the training given. When counseling mothers, we are asked to prepare reports which we submit to co-founders listing the details of the session or advice given. However, given that LATCH is a group of volunteer moms, we are not always available anytime any place like the other paid professional breastfeeding counselors. Sometimes, it takes a day or 2 before emails or SMS to the LATCH hotline are answered.
Another breastfeeding group is Arugaan (490-5452) - headed by Ines Fernandez and Velvet Escario-Roxas. Both moms are
breastfeeding counselors lactation gurus or lactation experts who work with grassroots communities and have a multitude of experience with breastfeeding moms - ranging from adoptive moms, relactation, multiples, wet nursing. Velvet is a great resource and counselor as she has a wide experience in advising moms and has attended several trainings locally and abroad. However, since Arugaan works primarily with grassroots communities and breastfeeding/young infant feeding policy, it may be difficult to schedule home consultations with them. Clarification - Velvet and Nanay Ines rarely do home visits. However, they would be happy to help you with your breastfeeding issues if you visit their homes. Velvet is in QC (soon to be in Rizal) while Nanay Ines is in Marikina.
In my early breastfeeding days, the counselor who helped me most was Abbie Yabot (09228292268) - who I met through N@W. Abbie is a certified Philippine counselor (certified by Dr. Grace Agrasada, the IBCLC coordinator in the Philippines) and also has a multitude of experience in counseling breastfeeding moms. She used to be affiliated with Makati Med and holds classes through the Breastfeeding Club. She is also a La Leche League Leader. Since Abbie is a breastfeeding professional, she is the most accessible breastfeeding counselor. However, Abbie is now home schooling her children so you also need to work out a schedule around her children's needs. As my breastfeeding counselor, I paid for Abbie's services back in 2008. I've been attending La Leche League meetings and Breastfeeding Club meetings that Abbie organizes and she also asks me to post announcements when classes/meetings are. I don't get paid to attend, review or post announcements for Abbie.
Another popular counselor is Nanay Lita Nery (09185557565). Nanay Lita is a trained lactation masseuse/therapist and has also been trained as a breastfeeding counselor through Arugaan (and she has also been in Australia for breastfeeding counseling). Like Velvet, Nanay Lita is active in Arugaan and has attended seminars locally and abroad. She is also a breastfeeding professional and is usually booked as a lactation therapist/masseuse - which comes with free breastfeeding consultation/advice. I was not able to try Nanay Lita's breastfeeding massage although I have met her through various breastfeeding events.
If you're from eastern Metro Manila, Pam Magallon (656-4993) is the most accessible breastfeeding counselor in that area. She was trained though Breastfeeding Philippines' Nona Andaya-Castillo, who is an IBCLC. Pam owns Bosom Buddy and has a Breastfeeding Guide on her site. She is based in Cainta, Rizal (and works in Taguig) and is an expert on hand expressing breastmilk! She taught my officemate how to hand express - and my officemate never used a breastpump and just hand expressed milk for more than 1 year!!
Meanwhile, Beauty, Brains and Breastfeeding headed by Nuriza Abeja (09165110200) is the place where south-based breastfeeding moms can consider. Iza was also trained by Breastfeeding Philippines' Nona Andaya-Castillo and is very active in the Philippine breastfeeding advocacy. Iza breastfed her eldest son until 6 years old and is still breastfeeding her 3-year old daughter.
Two relatively new breastfeeding counselors are Mi'Ann Oblea and Isis Evasco. Like Pam, Mi'Ann Oblea trained through Breastfeeding Philippines and owns Babymama. Through her Babymama FB page, Mi'Ann has built a community, dishes out breastfeeding advices and replies to concerns of breastfeeding moms. She also does home consultations for a fee. Meanwhile, Isis Evasco trained under Dr. Pat Kho and is also a certified as a breastfeeding counselor. However, Isis is currently employed full time and primarily counsels friends and acquaintances on breastfeeding.
If you're in Davao, Mommy Sense would be your best resource. Started by Alex Hao and Lyn Tan, both moms are childbirth advocates and breastfeeding their children beyond 2 years. Aside from holding workshops and photo exhibits, these moms also act as an informal milk bank, matching moms who need milk and have extra milk and counsel breastfeeding moms. I'm still looking for a group/breastfeeding counselor in Cebu. Leads are appreciated.
*Check out this link on WikiPilipinas on the Ten Breastfeeding Advocates in the Philippines.
*Let me know if I missed a counselor in this list. Thanks!
Velvet shared with me the names and numbers of 2 other counselors you can contact. Nanay Rich (09163086434) who was trained abroad and Nanay Lorena (09491599613) who didn't receive any international training yet but also does massages and counseling. Both these individuals have been thoroughly exposed to breastfeeding counseling through Arugaan's projects.
My LATCH batchmate, Mylene Santana has moved to Cebu!! Since she is also a LATCH certified peer counselor, Cebu moms can contact her for breastfeeding issues. You can reach her at 09177227530.
St. Luke's Medical Center (Quezon City and Global) has established their Lactation Units. The units are staffed with lactation counselors, nurses and managers who are available for consultation. Click HERE for details.
The Medical City likewise has established their Breastfeeding Center. The center is staffed with a lactation specialist and lactation nurses/midwives. You can contact the Breastfeeding Center at 988-7000 or 988-1000 local 6720.
RN Joyce Martinez who previously trained under Fabella as a lactation nurse is now a certified lactation counselor by the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice USA. You can message her in FB to get in touch.