August 15, 2007
In my marketing, public relations, community service, and event management worlds, the keyword “sexy” means “attractive,” “appealing,” “hip,” “trendy,” “in vogue,” “fashionable, “in style,” “contemporary” and all the positive adjectives you can think of.
Dr. Belen Lardizabal-Dofitas, a gorgeous, multi-talented Filipina mom (a.k.a. my youngest sister) from Quezon City, Philippines breastfeeds her almost-five years old son, Matthew. When Belen was in Oxford, England last year for three months, upon her return to the Philippines, Matthew couldn’t wait to get his fill of mother’s milk. Mind you, Matthew has been my favorite poster child since he was born. When he barely turned two years old, Matthew and I bonded — and guess what, it was about constructing sentences in the English language, with the correct subject and verb placements. I could see the “aha!” lightbulb expression on his face as we cheered him during our Christmas English lessons… But I am digressing! Matthew is Belen’s fourth breast-fed child, and yes, he’ll most likely be breastfeeding when he’s five years old. Mama mia! I asked myself, “When is he going to stop?”
Let’s segue to another memory: The octogenarian mother of one of my community leader-friends admitted to some of us that her son was breastfed until he was five years old. While we elbowed each other as we teased her son with our “oral fixation” dirty jokes, he just smiled and didn’t make any comments. You see, he is probably one of the healthiest friends I have. And at 50-something years old, his five-year tenure at breastfeeding is probably what’s keeping him strong!
My sister, Myrna, shares her breastfeeding story. “Belen beat me in our family’s record for breastfeeding,” she said. Apparently, her oldest son was still breastfeeding at three years old when her twin boys were born. Two weeks after their birth, Myrna asked her son if he could wean himself off from breastfeeding because it was tough for her to accommodate three hungry breastfeeders. Her oldest son didn’t protest.
Back to Belen.
Before the successful Synchronized Breastfeeding Worldwide Event was held last August 8, 2007, Belen wrote Noemi and I, her two older sisters, and asked us a question: “Was I breastfed — and for how long?”
We gave different answers, of course. It was so long ago! Through e-mails, Belen educated us about the wonders of breastfeeding until the child self-weans, sometimes by the age of six.
Here are some quotes from Belen’s e-mails:
Thanks for the info. I’m happy that Mom breastfed us. I could say I was breastfed for maybe less than 7 months–most likely mixed feeding tayo, no?
I only know what Auntie Leoning and you told me about my day of birth– that it was Hospital Day and the Mayor visited the nursery. I smiled at the Mayor daw 🙂 Auntie also used to make kuwento that Mom was so conscious about her breasts, in the aesthetic sense 🙂
Milk formula feeding has been associated with diabetes in children and young adults as well as a host of other diseases like asthma, allergies, etc. Milk is not even needed as a follow-on food. Only the milk companies are insisting that it is essential.
In my ignorance before and because of the lack of support systems for breastfeeding moms here, I formula-fed my children but breastfed them as much as I could. Now that I know better, I’m hoping more Moms will avoid milk formula and focus on breastfeeding especially in the first 6 months of the baby’s life.
Noemi couldn’t resist asking a question: “I couldn’t breastfeed Marielle. Is it true I couldn’t? I felt bad. I had hepatitis B, remember? I had lots of milk.”
In the few instances where the mother has an active infection (ex. HIV, Hepa, TB) or is taking dangerous medication (like radioactive stuff), this mother’s breastmilk should not be fed to the infant until the infection is treated or the medication fully out of the mother’s system. BUT, this doesn’t mean that the infant should not be fed breastmilk per se. Marielle could have still been fed breastmilk from another mother (screened for safety, of course) if there was a milk bank in the hospital or if there was another willing mother who could have donated her breastmilk.
Mothers who are not allowed to feed their own milk due to some rare infections or medications are encouraged to keep up their milk supply by expressing their milk but discarding the milk after. But at least the milk supply will be sustained until the time that the mother can safely feed the child with her own breastmilk.
In the US guidelines for breastfeeding, infants who have received the Hepatits B immunoglobulins can breastfeed. The baby should also be started on the 3 doses of Hep B immunization.
Unfortunate that at the time that Marielle was born, the knowledge or advocacy of breastfeeding wasn’t that widespread. But even if Marielle was not breastfed, she grew up relatively healthy and smart. The added benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk itself may have been missed.
I seem to recall that many years ago, women burned their bras as a symbol of “liberation.” Did many of these women also turn their backs on breastfeeding when they joined the workplace — as in the offices, factories, and other industries? As day care, latchkey kids, job sharing, and Mr. Mom became a lifestyle for many years, eventually, a gentler and evolved “coming of age” produced “clean and green,” buying organic food, alternative fuels — and of course, breastfeeding.
Today, breastfeeding is sexy, thank you to the many mothers worldwide who are advocates of a healthier, natural way of child rearing.
My sister, Belen, and her friends, the Filipina advocates of breastfeeding, Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC and her partner-advocate, Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, MD, FPDS, RPh, IBCLC keep many of us informed about their events. I enjoy forwarding their e-mails to my friends because I believe in their breastfeeding advocacy work.
Belen is quite a gifted writer, although she writes more in “medical speak,” my term for being a technical writer focused on medical concerns and issues.
Here is Belen’s account of the Synchronized Breastfeeding Worldwide event that she attended.
From: Belen Dofitas
Date: Aug 7, 2007 11:58 PM
Subject: We joined another Guinness world record attempt today -Synchronized Breastfeeding!
At 10AM today, Matthew and I were participants of another Guinness world record attempt–the Synchronized Breastfeeding event. Twenty or so other countries participated in this attempt but my friends Nona Castillo and Dr. Elvira Henares Esguerra were the organizers of this event in cooperation with World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).
Despite the storm (continuous rains since yesterday) and the possible floods along the way, Matt and I travelled to Technology Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) building in Taguig this morning and got there at 9:30AM. Fortunately, classes had been called off so there was less traffic. Surprisingly, most of the flood waters had also subsided along C5.
At exactly 10AM, we all breastfed our children while Nona recited a prayer she composed. After one minute, we most probably made a world record! We must have gathered over 40 mothers and children (the minimum number is 25 mothers with children per site) despite the storm.
Matthew gamely breastfed and smiled for the cameras. Matthew and Elvira’s son Larry were running around and playing the whole time while the press people were filiming, taking photos, interviewing us. I got interviewed by Reuters’ Philippine staff. We ate a healthy vegetarian meal prepared by Nurturers of the Earth (Nona’s NGO that promotes indigenous food, which included breastmilk, in order to preserve our environment as well). Although the host of the event, Edu Manzano, and the senators who wanted to be present (Chiz Escudero for example), the bad weather prevented them from travelling to the site. TESDA officials and the media were there (GMA7, Reuters, etc) so we hope to get a lot of media mileage in the news later today or tomorrow.
We closed the program with group pictorials–and Matthew and Larry chanting, “Breastfeed me! Breastfeed me!” What a riot!
Elvira and Nona (with Tito Larry, Elvira’s Dad) thought of this event as a follow-up of the May Guinness attempt at breastfeeding in multiple sites in the Philippines. And true enough, it manifested because of their sheer mind power 🙂
As Elvira often says, we want to elevate breastfeeding to a level where it is considered the norm, where mothers and children are proud to breastfeed, and mothers proud that they are homemakers who breastfeed. We should not consider breastfeeding as a second class or ‘cheap’ food for children. Instead, we should look up to breastmilk as the best food for our infants and young children.
I am often asked why I still breastfeed Matthew, and I often reply ‘Just look at my child Matthew. You can easily see the effects of breastfeeding.’
No need to question the benefits of breastfeeding–‘Res ipsa loquitor’–the thing speaks for itself 🙂
Let’s show you how sexy breastfeeding can be! Here is an excerpt from a Malaysian newspaper (courtesy of WABA Malaysia). Elvira and Belen are featured with their sons — role models of extended breastfeeding.
Filipina mothers, unite! Breastfeeding is healthy. Breastfeeding is sexy.