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Friday, July 22, 2011

More on Breastfeeding Promotion plus a Guest Post

"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."
I don't know if you have noticed but the Department of Health has become more active in promoting breastfeeding.  There was a launch of the campaign early this year, followed by a bloggers' event in May plus the creation of their Facebook page and hanging of tarps in MRT stations.  Then for Nutrition Month, DOH has decided to again focus on breastfeeding as its theme, resulting in various activities in several regions nationwide, all geared towards promoting breastfeeding.
DOH Breastfeeding TSEK Tarp at Baclaran Station of LRT Line 1
*Photo from DOH Breastfeeding TSEK Facebook page
The efforts are indeed laudable BUT (of course there is a but!) I feel that there is much more to be done for the promotion to be effective.  For my post today, let me start with a bucket list of other ways by which breastfeeding can be promoted before I share the guest post.

1. Strict Implementation (and Promotion) of the Milk Code
Let's face it - celebrities with advertisements are a force to contend with which is why I am really bothered when celebrities endorse formula milk.  Not only that, milk companies are very active in sponsoring or co-presenting events targeted for moms.  One thing to consider is that organizers do not necessarily now that the Milk Code even exists.  Then again, ignorance of the law is no excuse.  DOH needs to focus on spreading the word about the Milk Code and encouraging the public to actively report violations.

2. Set-up a registry of accredited breastfeeding professionals.
I recently posted about bad press being received by breastfeeding professionals.  Bad press result from moms who were seen by people claiming to be breastfeeding professionals but actually give wrong advice. There is no central registry of WHO received proper training to properly advice moms on breastfeeding.  Practically anyone can claim to be a lactation consultant, charge fees and just say whatever they think is considered "good breastfeeding advice" to the moms.  Setting up a registry would be beneficial not only to moms (who can easily access a list of the correct people) but also to breastfeeding professionals and the advocacy in general.

3. Promote or encourage lactation training programs
A lot of moms who were able to successfully breastfeed often ask me how they can get trained so that they can pay it forward and help more moms to breastfeed.  Honestly, breastfeeding or peer counselor training sessions are few and rarely come by - plus they are usually organized by private groups.  But recently, I found that (thanks to a fellow advocate who works closely with the Fabella Milk Bank) that Fabella Hospital conducts 40-hour lactation training program!  If you are a big group, you can ask that a special class or session be organized for you.  But if you are just 1 or 2 persons, you can join their regularly scheduled training programs.  For details, call Fabella Milk Bank 7338536 to 46 or 734-5561 to 65, local 156 (for the milk bank) and ask about the training organized by Dr. Star Olonan.

4. Include Breastfeeding in the school curricula
Integration of breastfeeding education in the curricula is mandated by Republic Act No. 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act.  The IRR has not yet been signed but I think it is high time that the Department of Education review the curricula and include breastfeeding education - even if only for medical schools!  Doctor friends tell me that breastfeeding does not even comprise a whole subject or period in their entire medical school - but just an hour or so of lecture.  No wonder we have very few breastfeeding friendyly pediatricians.

5. Offer breastfeeding classes
Current ads promoting breastfeeding sponsored by the government indeed paint a rosy picture of the breastfeeding relationship and do not really apprise moms what to expect.  A lot of moms do not have access to breastfeeding classes or support groups to help them hurdle the first few difficult weeks.  Yes, private groups do offer breastfeeding classes but they only serve a small portion of the new mom population.

To emphasize how important breastfeeding classes, information and support groups are, let me segue into our Guest Post for the carnival, from Shaps Lim.  Shaps is also a lawyer and a first-time mom.  Her daughter, Meia, is now 4 months old and is still exclusively breastfed.  Since she has gone back to work Shaps religiously pumps milk for Meia whenever they are separated.


Keeping It Real 

The Milk Mama Diaries Carnival is soliciting ideas on how breastfeeding should be promoted to increase breastfeeding rates and encourage more moms to breastfeed. Here’s my 10 cents: why don’t we paint a more realistic picture of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a difficult, literally painful process. Forget the romanticized pictures that you see on television with smiling mother as her equally happy baby suckles from her breast. In my case, during my first few days postpartum, I was too sleepy or too busy wincing in pain to smile at my wailing baby as she tried for the nth time to latch. On her first day home, we even had to feed her glucose water because she refused to feed from my breast. While we’re doing much better now, I still get the occasional plugged ducts and nipple blister (ouch!). I am also not looking forward to the time when that first tooth comes out and inevitably bites into my flesh.  
I decided to try breastfeeding because of its many advantages. But I was able to continue breastfeeding because of my support group. While I am grateful for my husband who would help me latch MT during the early days, for my pediatrician who taught me how to breastfeed, I don’t think I will be as confident as I am now with my decision to breastfeed if not for my mommy friends who (very patiently) explained to me what’s normal and what’s not, and who gave me pointers on what I should expect in my breastfeeding career. 
And I think this is what is lacking in the current literature on breastfeeding. It is easy to find information on the advantages of breastfeeding. However, data on how to keep breastfeeding is not as prevalent.
I’ve heard of expectant moms who were hell-bent on breastfeeding their child switch to formula the moment they experienced difficulty in feeding. I do not denounce them, I am sure that their decisions were made with their child’s best interest in mind. But sometimes I wonder, if they had access to the same support group as I did, if they were given information on the possible hurdles one would go through during breastfeeding instead of the overly romanticized videos and empty slogans, would they have made the same decision? If they knew that all breastfeeding moms go through some difficulty, would they have tried again?
I am not saying that we should take out current propaganda on how breast is best. It is the best, no question about that. However, there is a need to supplement that to keep those who decide to breastfeed, breastfeeding. 

Check out the posts of our other carnival participants:
The Low-Milk-Supply Mommy Did It! by The Odyssey of Dinna 
More Breastfeeding Promotion Plus a Guest Post by Chronicles of a Nursing Mom (@mamababylove).  Guest post by Shaps Lim (@cromartielove)


Mec Camitan Arevalo said...

Uyy... I will check out the one in Fabella :) maybe my sked can accommodate it!

To Shaps... to say breastfeeding is a difficult, painful process would also be painting an unrealistic picture. I think it would be better to say that breastfeeding takes work, it's an art/skill you learn, a relationship you establish, a commitment you make. because for every mom who struggled, there is also that mom who didn't (by virtue of a lack of options, information or what-have-you, they just did it and were basically succesful)

Ichel Alignay said...

Hey Jenny.  I agree with you that the Milk Code needs to be implemented strongly.  Also, many are interested to breastfeed but find it hard to sustain it.  They thought breastfeeding ends along with their maternity leave.  Maybe we can come up with literature/ cases study on the best practices on how mothers can sustain breastfeeding!  :)  That would help others to see how it was done and sustained!  Keep up your inititaives!  Holler if you need help!

Nathalie Velasco said...

I really like the idea of having a database of accredited breastfeeding professionals, Miss Jen!

Shaps dear, thanks for sharing! It's really a good idea to be prepared for the challenges you will encounter when breastfeeding so that you don't easily give up.  You're doing great! Can't wait to meet MT again soon.  :)

Dr Sarah said...

Jenny: I think these are really good suggestions.

Shaps: You've hit on something that my sister asked me ages ago to write a post about - the need to be honest with mothers-to-be about the more difficult side of breastfeeding.  I'm trying now to write a blog post about how to strike a balance between being realistic enough to prepare mothers and not so negative as to put them off altogether - when it's up, I'll link to it. 

Thank you both for these posts!

Jenny said...

thanks ichel! a friend is working on a maternity leave bill and needs suggestions/draft bill. send me one if you have! ;)

Jenny said...

thanks for the guest post shaps!! balancing the need to be real and not sugarcoating the hard stuff with the goal of not scaring moms is really difficult and something that counselors need to work on. 

Paolo Chikiamco said...

thanks also for posting, jenny :) i agree there is a need to carefully balance the need to be realistic and at the same time, encouraging :)

shaps_lim said...

Nats, you're a big help and influence when it comes to breastfeeding. Thanks for being one of my strongest supporters/cheerleaders when it comes to breastfeeding MT :) 

shaps_lim said...

Hi, Mec. My point is that there is a need to tell would-be-moms that it's ok to struggle, that it does get difficult sometimes, so they'll have more reason to keep on trying when the going gets tough. I think kulang pa tayo on this front. 

Cym Marzan said...

Great guest post!  sure is easy to fall prey to being discouraged when other breastfeeding moms seem to be having a rosy time while I felt so lost on breastfeeding.

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