Breastfeeding Warrior: A Nurse’s Fight for Breastfeeding Mothers

By bambi capanang

A celebration is meant to mark an important person or to observe an event with respect. It will continuously be recognized in honor of that person or in memory of that event. This March, we are celebrating a month-long occasion for women, the National Women’s Month, which is observed in coordination with International Women’s Month all over the world. Women of every race, age or status are being celebrated, especially to our mothers who are the most important women in our lives.

Here in Iloilo City, I met a special woman who embraced motherhood in its very natural essence. She practiced as an Emergency Room nurse at Western Visayas Medical Center prior to taking up the mantle of motherhood. During the last trimester of her pregnancy, she co-founded together with six other friends Breastfeeding Ilonggas, a group open to all pregnant women and mothers with children ages three years old and below. Now, she has seen this path as her vocation and taking the extra mile to become a Certified Lactation Councilor licensed both by La Leche League International and the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Educators. On her free time, she still paints with the same fervor as her passion for promoting and protecting breastfeeding among lactating mothers. She is Adhara “Adz” Alcudia Sebuado, an artist, nurse, friend, daughter, sister, and mother – a woman.

Adhara Sebuado Breastfeeding - Project IloiloI was expecting for a straight, informative kind of interview when she greeted me with her usual beamish personality. In between discussions, what she claimed has intenerated my maternal instincts: “Indi lang na ya nutrisyon, kundi may gugma kag kabudlay sang nanay ang magpasuso.” [It is not only nutrition, but breastfeeding also includes the love and sacrifice of the mother.] Her advocacy to help promote and protect breastfeeding among her fellow Ilongga mothers has opened her career options to becoming what she hopes as the first Ilongga Certified Lactation Consultant in the near-future.

Breastfeeding Ilonggas has kept Adz busy when the seven friends founded and organized it last October 20, 2014 at Maya Play Garden, a daycare center at Ticud, La Paz. The first breastfeeding class and mothers’ gathering took place at the same time with approximately sixty participants, including ten healthcare workers from the obstetrical and neonatal departments of Iloilo Mission Hospital and West Visayas State University Medical Center.

The group supports the Milk Code of the Philippines, Executive No. 51, which adopts the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes of World Health Assembly 34, 22. Their main goal is aligned with the aim of the code which is to contribute to the provisions of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding. Iloilo was ranked third from the lowest among the provinces in terms of breastfeeding, which was why they started the group in the first place.

Breastfeeding Ilonggas - Project IloiloApart from being a core member of Breastfeeding Ilonggas, Adhara has been conducting free mothers’ classes every Saturday of the month at Federico Roman Tirador Memorial District Hospital in Janiuay since September of 2014. Their January 2015 seminar attracted a total of 92 participants, boasting the highest number of attendees ever since they started the classes. Included in the mothers’ class is a post-pregnancy breastfeeding counseling as a reinforcement of their breastfeeding class.”Mother’s milk is liquid gold,” Adhara explains. She stresses that breast milk is homogenous in consistency and form, and it changes according to infant’s needs, ages to stages and condition.

Having both Breastfeeding Ilonggas and the monthly mothers’ class in Janiuay, she pointed out the importance of empowering other women through breastfeeding. First, there is a mother-to-mother support system where both women share their experiences and difficulties to each other. A holistic approach to parenting and household practices is also shared during the counseling in a simple tete-a-tete. Secondly, they are educating women about the proper duration of breastfeeding in which the recommended span is six months and above; their desire to breastfeed will be lengthened. Diseases can be prevented if the newborns were exclusively breastfed from the start, which can result in reduced infant mortality rates. Third, they show that working women can still provide sufficient breast milk even if they work in an eight-hour shift by following the 4-Hour Rule. This means they can “pump” breast milk every 2 to 3 hours and store it in clean bottles to sustain milk supply for the child. Lastly, they are also addressing the basic problems of mothers about breastfeeding: namely, the difficulty in latching, sore nipples, breast engorgement, and low milk supply. They also tackle more serious concerns like relactation—which sees a mother ceasing the breastfeeding for one month or more and wants to go back to breastfeeding—and developing weak suckling reflexes for premature newborns who need supplemental nursing systems that can only bought in Manila at the moment.

Adhara emphasized that companies producing milk formulas are very aggressive in pushing and advertising their products as superior to human breast milk. Ironically enough, one of the tenets found in Executive No. 51 Section 5, 1-2 stated that information and educational materials dealing with the feeding of infants and intended to teach pregnant women and mothers of infants shall include clear information on all of the following points, one of which is the “benefits and superiority of breastfeeding”.

She finally concluded our discourse with this reminder to everyone: “Breastfeeding babies are calm babies. Ara da tanan nga warmth kag love sang nanay.” [It contains all the warmth and love of the mother.]

Photos courtesy of Adhara Sebuado