When a woman becomes a mother
How mothers from Negros Oriental are helping new mothers to breastfeed
On an ordinary day, a typical morning for a new mother in Dumaguete would consist of taking care of the baby and keeping house. This Thursday is not one of those days. Today, a mothers’ meeting is in session inside a small room at the Magsaysay Elementary School compound.
Melanie, a new mom, can be seen breastfeeding little Ghalara while listening to today’s lesson. Another mother, Manilanie, is jotting down notes in a small notebook while 4 month old Cloud Genesis nibbles on his fingers. In between the mothers’ banters, 6 month old Raymart expresses his approval with the occasional giggle and tries to grab mom’s pencil while she is writing.
For these mothers, the subject matter today is equally important as the upcoming elections, or the rise of bread prices. Today, they are learning about liquid gold—mother’s milk—and how it can bring numerous benefits to their babies’ health.
“Breastfeeding makes my child healthy and free from diseases. I am learning a lot today from this breastfeeding seminar. I will try to help other mothers when we finish this training,” Melanie says.
A few kilometers away, in Barangay Bio-os in the municipality of Amlan, Jayna explains the benefits of breastfeeding to young mother Cecil. Sunlight streams in through the nipa roof while 4-day old Carl Vhince, bundled in his baby clothes, lets out small whimpers as a newborn baby would. Jayna has an air of confidence and sureness about her, as if she has counseled hundreds of new mothers before. Cecil listens intently, as if Jayna was her real mother telling her how it was when she was born.
“I became part of the breastfeeding support group in 2006. I am really thankful that I attended the seminar that day because I had a very difficult time breastfeeding. My breasts were really painful, no milk was coming out. I found out about the right positioning and after that, I never had any problems with breastfeeding all my three children. Even when I visit my home province of Davao, I teach my family and neighbors about breastfeeding,” she said.
Out of 500 barangays in Negros Oriental, there are 20 active breastfeeding support groups and more are being formed. Through the help of UNICEF, the Provincial Health Office is able to go the rounds and tell midwives, barangay health workers and mothers about the advantages of breastfeeding, proper positioning and correct the myths associated with breastfeeding.
Mothers too have a special place in UNICEF’s heart. The UN children’s agency has been working for more than 60 years in the Philippines, and one of its major thrusts is to promote a breastfeeding culture that is supportive of mothers. It espouses exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months, which means that the baby is just fed with mom’s milk and nothing else, not even water. This way, the infant is assured of the all the health-giving and protective benefits of breastmilk until adulthood. After 6 months, mothers can continue breastfeeding and also give babies mashed healthy food.
Sadly, many mothers in the country do not breastfeed because of a number of reasons. Some are deceived by formula milk ads that promise to make their kids intelligent. Some have to work to augment the family income. Some have difficulty in expressing milk.
Through all these difficulties, one solution that seems to work is mother-to-mother counseling. Within breastfeeding support groups reside an atmosphere of sharing and mutual encouragement on a very personal level. This is also a good venue for mothers to self-organize within their communities.
Power to the mother
“After the breastfeeding seminar, they are now better informed and are able to support other mothers within their area. They start meeting on their own once a month, supervised by a midwife,” Judith Vailoces, a nurse at the Provincial Health Office says.
Jayna is also happy of her newfound role as a mother to the mothers in her area, and the immense contribution her group contributes to the barangay.
“Having a breastfeeding support group improves our community because through helping mothers to breastfeed, children grow up to become healthy and productive people,” she concludes.