Breastfeeding: Mission possible

Mary Allyn B. Tan
One would first have to be a new mother or be close to a new mother to appreciate how difficult it can be to find answers in a bottle-feeding culture

“He’s really coming to Davao? He is! This is so exciting!”

The man in question is Dr Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, IBCLC. He’s a Unicef consultant to the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, co-author of “The  Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers,“ and perhaps one of the few doctors who dedicated his career to understanding breastfeeding. He has helped breastfeeding families, and most importantly, has been the source of answers for mothers and health practitioners.

One would first have to be a new mother or be close to a new mother to appreciate how difficult it can be to find answers in a bottle-feeding culture. It’s like learning to drive stick shift with a manual transmission when everyone knows only how to drive an automatic.

“Breastfeeding protects your baby from a host of illnesses and diseases. Breastfeeding saves lives.” Yet most mothers are surprised to find that their health practitioners don’t have the right answers about breastfeeding a lot of times.

A friend and fellow advocate was once surprised to find out how little training on breastfeeding is included in the medical courses curriculum (luckily, this is slowly changing and lactation medical conferences are becoming available). 

As a pharmacist, I was baffled by this until I considered that modern health care professionals are trained primarily for trouble-shooting. As the old adage goes, “It’s not the healthy man who seeks the doctor, but the sick one.” 

Our doctors and nurses are primarily concerned with treating us when we are unwell, and breastfeeding and its benefits belong to the other side of the health spectrum.

No longer alone

So one can appreciate how rare Dr Jack Newman is, and how valuable he has been to hundreds of thousands of mothers and the advancement of breastfeeding in modern, bottle-feeding cultures worldwide. 

He first came to the country last year, for a whole-day symposium organized by L.A.T.C.H. at The Medical City. Residing in Davao City was not deterrent enough to my joining, so off I flew, and on that day, there was a palpable air of anticipation.   I’ve attended my share of conferences and seminars, but few, if any, had attendees as excited as this! 

BREASTFEEDING ADVOCATES. Dr Jack Newman may have the answers to questions about breastfeeding.

We came eager for more knowledge, and we got it in spades, with such topics as “Not-Enough-Breastmilk Jaundice” and “Hypoglycemia”.  But there was something else powerful waiting for us. 

Looking around me that day, I was struck by how many we were and how positive the atmosphere was. Most of the symposium attendees had come because of motivations no less than to learn and share something of true value. 

We were midwives, nurses, doctors, family members, mothers and fathers, sharing and driven by a beautiful vision of healthy and smart Filipino children receiving their birthright and nourished by the gold standard in nutrition and nurturing.

We are still few and sometimes far between, but we are not too alone anymore. And for the exhausted mother struggling with a painful nipple and a crying baby at 2 am, or the frustrated advocate facing the same harmful misconceptions year after year, this is comforting indeed. 

Being with passionate, like-minded people brings a sense of inspiration and strength. We are a wonderful and generous community, and we are growing!

This August, the exciting tri-city, “Breastfeeding Uncovered: Mission Possible 2014 Symposium” with Dr Jack Newman organized by L.A.T.C.H. Manila, Davao and Cebu takes off. 

In Davao City, it happens on August 11, 2014, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, at the SMX Convention Center. I can hardly wait! Nurturers of the South, we’ll see you there! –

The author is a member of L.A.T.C.H. Davao and has been a breastfeeding advocate for 10 years. She breastfed her two children for a total of 7 ½ years.

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