Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and joyous acts of human love. And yet many Filipina mothers today, misled by a number of mistaken notions, continue to depend chiefly on formula milk to nourish their infants.
Beauty, Brains & Breastfeeding Inc. (BBB), a silence-breaking organization advocating breastfeeding, says only 34 per cent of mothers in the Philippines practice exclusive feeding in the first six months of their babies. Based on UNICEF statistics, BBB also reveals that nearly half of all mothers in the country depend on artificial milk in varying degrees.
The group would like to correct several misconceptions which discourage mothers with infants and young children to breastfeed -- main hurdles to having all Filipino newborns properly breastfed:
- exclusive breastfeeding in the formative first six months of an infant is NOT a hindrance to a mother’s professional or personal goals;
- exclusive breastfeeding is a commitment to give one’s child with life-nourishing food and a good start in life; to think of breastfeeding as only for the poor should be dismissed immediately;
- continued breastfeeding DOES NOT cause a woman’s breasts to deform, sag or make her look haggard and unattractive; and
- the act of breastfeeding in public places is not an act shame and therefore should be encouraged.
No matter the prevailing conditions and norms in any society, nothing best embodies the miraculous ties between mother and child than the act of breastfeeding, BBB asserts.
To correct misconceptions, a trio of smart and beautiful women has decided to speak out and recount their empowering experiences with breastfeeding. Billboards featuring breastfeeding advocates Daphne Oseña-Paez, Patricia Bermudez-Hizon and Iza Abeja with their kids will be seen all over Metro Manila within the month to help bring their strong and timely messages to life.
According to BBB, a total of five billboards will be rolled down: three along MIA Road in Pasay City which will be launched on October 14; one in Philcoa, Quezon City; and one on the DILG Building in EDSA. A few more billboards will be up soon with sites currently in negotiation.
Media personality and UNICEF Special Advocate for Children Daphne Oseña-Paez is a proud advocate of exclusive breastfeeding in the Philippines. Through her work with UNICEF and BBB, Daphne shows mothers in the country how she found time to breastfed exclusively is simply a matter of proper time-management and freely asking others for help whenever one needs it.
With her demanding schedule as a celebrity, entrepreneur, and child advocate, you might think Daphne relied on mixed-feeding or formula milk to nurse her three daughters. This, however, was hardly the case for her, breastfeeding her kids in a span of eight years.
“I have three daughters,” she says, “Sophia is 8, Lily is 5, and Stella just turned 2 -- all were breastfed for at least 12 months. That seems a long time to be giving up my body for the sake of my children. But it was not felt that way for me at all. Those eight years have been the most beautiful and powerful time of my life.”
Why should a mother opt for exclusive breastfeeding until her infant is six-months old when there are more convenient alternatives?
“I don’t think I gave myself a choice… it was just natural,” Daphne says. “I never once considered giving my newborns milk formula.”
As to breastfeeding in public, which may be somewhat a performance or a subversive act, Daphne says: “I nursed my babies everywhere—in malls, restaurants, airports, cars, parks. I do not own a fancy cover-up bib. I simply use a shawl in places where I feel require discretion. People are still not comfortable seeing mothers nurse in public. But it is comforting to get smiles and approving nods from other mothers (and fathers) who are going through the same thing.”
The success of Daphne’s commitment relied a lot on the support of her family, her entire household, her doctors, colleagues and friends. “Everyone knows I was a breastfeeding mama,” she says, “I made it known to my friends and colleagues -- so they can help me.”
Like most successful endeavors, exclusive breast-feeding required collaboration and teamwork. Daphne made sure her house staff knew how to properly store and thaw the milk she pumped for future feedings. She also made her colleagues aware, during hectic shoots that she needed to take periodic breaks to express milk.
“They even sometimes stand as my human dressing room, holding up my shawl to help cover me up,” she says. “As much as I’d like to take credit for successfully breastfeeding all my three kids, I must admit I could have not done it without the help of the people around me.”