These moms want you to know it's okay to breastfeed in public
MANILA, Philippines – When over a thousand mothers participated in the latest simultaneous breastfeeding event in the country last Sunday, August 5, they made it their mission to show fellow Filipinos and the world that breastfeeding was a natural phenomenon and should be normalized.
But by the following day, the social media chat group of the media team of Breastfeeding Pinays (BFP) – the online support group for nursing mothers that spearheads the annual Hakab Na! event – was abuzz after photographs of the sixth Hakab Na! were published.
One of the volunteers said that a BFP member who was photographed tandem-feeding her children at the SMX Convention Center, the main venue of Hakab Na! 2018, was being harassed for taking part in the event.
While Filipinos are generally conservative, BFP members see nothing wrong with mothers nursing their babies in public.
“BFP is absolutely behind her. We are proud of her and we really want her to know that there is nothing wrong with what she did,” said Rosana Padua-Macachor, who was at the helm of BFP’s media team.
“After learning about the nasty remarks, I immediately reached out to her and had a long talk with her. I am amazed by her resolve amidst the painful words she received. She said that, of course, she was worried and felt hurt, but because her husband is 100% behind her, she remains strong. She has also stopped reading comments. I truly admire her and her family for that,” she added.
Padua-Macachor said that BFP rallied behind their member and congratulated her for tandem feeding her two children, which most breastfeeding mothers know to be no easy feat.
At the sidelines of the event, Deliela Badiana recalled how she was told off before when she tried to nurse her children in public despite laws supporting breastfeeding in the country.
“May nae-encounter pa rin ako na against pa rin sa pagpapadede, lalo na sa mga public places. Kahit kapwa mo [nanay na] nagpapadede din naman, parang ayaw nilang makita ‘yong boobs mo na nakalabas,” she said.
(I still encounter people who are against breastfeeding, especially in public places. Even mothers who also breastfeed seem to have an aversion to seeing breasts in public.)
Badiana said she was there to support the call to normalize breastfeeding in the Philippines despite the fact that was already on the verge of giving birth.
“Actually, four centimeters dilated na ako. (Pero) maganda kasi itong event, makikilala mo ‘yong mga co-breastfeeding moms mo. Magugulat ka na napakarami pa rin palang nagpapadede pa rin,” said the 33-year-old mother of five who has been participating in Hakab Na! since 2016.
(Actually, I am already four centimeters dilated. But this event is significant because I meet many fellow breastfeeding moms here. You’ll be surprised how many women still choose to breastfeed their children.)
Badiana is only one of 1,647 mothers who showed their support for breastfeeding awareness last Sunday at the SMX Convention Center.
Nursing mothers showed up at the venue sporting multicolored tiaras, unicorn headbands, cowgirl outfits, and many other costumes for Hakab Na! 2018, an effort which Velvet Escario-Roxas, one of the founders of BFP, said to be initiated by the participants themselves.
“‘Yong mga tribes they have their own initiatives. So ‘yong iba naka-korona, ‘yong iba naka-flowers, tapos ‘yong iba pare-pareho sila ng shirts which is really wonderful. Sila-sila lang ‘yon. Nagiging friends sila over time kasi from being a tribe, nagpe-play group sila. ‘Yong friendship nila from online tapos nagmi-meet na. Tapos nagbond na sila,” she added.
(The tribes have their own initiatives. Some came in tiaras, some with flowers, some in matching shirts, which is really wonderful. They were the ones who thought of that. They became friends over time because from being part of a tribe, they started setting up play groups. Their friendship evolved from online to meet ups.)
Sarah Babula, a breastfeeding counsellor for BFP, said that it was her role which inspired her to form her own tribe this year, her fourth year of participating in the event.
The 31-year-old mother of two led the tribe named Latcheras, a group whose mother-and-baby pairs came to the venue in matching cowgirl and cowboy costumes. “Gusto kong makatulong sa mga mommies na nahihirapang magbreastfeed. And for them na malaman kung ano talaga ‘yong importance ng breastfeeding at para madebunk din ‘yong mga breastfeeding myths,” she said.
(I want to help mommies who are finding it difficult to breastfeed. And to teach them the importance of breastfeeding and debunk breastfeeding myths.)
A member of Babula’s tribe, 24-year-old Rommila Gatdula said BFP has helped her ensure that her baby had a good latch from the start.
“Wala akong kasama sa bahay. I am a single mom. Ang mother ko nasa work lagi. Doon (sa Breastfeeding Pinays) ako nagche-check ano ‘yong tama,” she said.
(I have no one with me at home. I am a single mom. My mother is always at work. That is where I get information on how to breastfeed.)
Hakab Na! was held from August 3-5 across the country in 62 venues, and gathered not only breastfeeding families, but also breastfeeding advocacy experts and supporters to celebrate the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, “Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life.”
For babies to get the best start in life, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that breastfeeding be initiated within one hour of birth.
According to the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Capture the Moment,” newborns breastfed in the first hour of life have higher chances of surviving compared to those who were delayed being breastfed.
The report found that three in every five babies were not put to their mother’s breast within the first hour of lifem and thus have greater risk of death and disease.
To ensure the child’s optimal growth and development, WHO recommends that exclusive breastfeeding be pursued for the first six months of life and that breastfeeding be continued up to two years or beyond.
Last year, as the culminating event of the ASEAN Breastfeeding Forum, 4,775 mom-and-baby pairs breastfed in 25 Hakab Na! venues all over the Philippines. Of this number, 1,686 mothers simultaneously breastfeed in the event’s main venue Araneta Coliseum.
They have yet to release the official tally for this year’s Hakab Na! but Escario-Roxas maintained that more important than the numbers, what BFP sought to achieve was a venue for breastfeeding mothers to bond and form friendships online and offline.
“Ako kasi hindi ako concerned sa numbers. It’s not as important as the women coming together with force. [This is a] get-together of moms—moms coming together. ‘Di ba ‘yon naman ang importante? ‘Yon ang essence of ibalik sa uso ang pagpapasuso,” she said.
(I am not too concerned with the numbers. It’s not as important as the women coming together with force. This is a get-together of moms—moms coming together. Isn’t that what is important? It is the essence of bringing back the culture of breastfeeding.) – Rappler.com