Peek-A-Boo!

I’m squeezing in this short post just to say hi-and-bye! We’re off to The Painter’s hometown that is Toledo, Cebu to spend New Year there.

Truth is, I’ve got a lot of posts lined up. Except I haven’t been in a blogging mood lately. With all that’s happened in Mindanao, I just couldn’t bring myself to think about much else, and chose to focus on Christmas with my family.

I’m excited to share Toledo with you guys though. I hope I’ll have time to blog from there.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you Basti’s 2011 Santa pic. My little boy stayed true to form.

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Merry Christmas. Yeah.

 

 

Let The Good Vibes Rule

We had our meeting with Berna Velasco, head of the SM Breastfeeding Committee, and Liza Silerio, VP-Operations of SM. Present were mommy Mona (the mom cited in the incident), Paola Loot and myself. We brought our kiddos and spent the afternoon talking about the issue, the shoulda-woulda-couldas of it all and the steps being taken to make sure the incident will never happen again. SM was apologetic and mentioned that what happened urged them to review their breastfeeding orientation sessions for the employees. Improvements are being undertaken, starting with increasing the number of seminars each year. Because of your help in spreading the word in Facebook, Twitter, your blogs and word-of-mouth, our voices were heard all the way to the top. Your comments were also taken into consideration. Overall, everything that has happened resulted in only good things for the advocacy, and I’m excited to move forward and see what SM has in store for their breastfeeding program. I hope other establishments follow suit.

Here’s the SM official statement:

“The moment we were apprised of the unfortunate event that happened, we immediately called the attention of those concerned so this does not happen again.  We sincerely apologize for whatever inconvenience or confusion that this may have caused you.  We were likewise saddened by it as we have always believed in breastfeeding – we in fact have breastfeeding stations in our malls.  Given that, we would be the last to wish to disappoint you.  Rest assured, we are refreshing our people on our policies so that there will be no confusion and this isolated incident will not happen again.  Please accept our sincere apologies and we hope you will continue to visit us despite this unfortunate incident.” – Berna Velasco, SM Cares Breastfeeding Committee

Because of what happened, here’s something that Jenny, Mec and I talked about doing a couple of months ago. Through the generosity of my blog designer, Pat of Fancy Girl Designs, we are sharing this with everyone:

Why not encourage each other through this little act? Please feel free to print this out and hand them to breastfeeding mothers you know or meet. This is not our idea. Similar cards are available online, and this is already done in other countries. We just thought it would be nice to have our own. Click on the image above to download the printable file. Best as calling-card size.

And with that I leave you guys with another image, made by another Filipino artist, Avid Liongoren.

That’s all.

The SM Breastfeeding Issue: UPDATE

I got a call from Berna Velasco, the Director for the SM Breastfeeding Program. Here are the points of our conversation:

  • SM does not and will never have a policy of disallowing breastfeeding in public in SM Malls.
  • The breastfeeding stations are a courtesy extended to mothers who wish to breastfeed their children, but they are also a symbol that SM is a supporter of breastfeeding anywhere. We both agreed that they are much like the special parking slots reserved for PWDs. Would you require a PWD to park ONLY in the designated parking area and nowhere else?
  • There is no policy or directive given to staff and security of SM to approach mothers who are nursing in public places and ask them to proceed to the breastfeeding room as a requirement.

We are meeting on Monday to talk more about the matter, as well as discuss SM’s reorientation and awareness programs for the following  year. Updates to follow!

Great news right? Go breastfeeding!

Oh, a few more personal points:

  • It is not my place as a breastfeeding counselor to consciously manipulate and impose my own comfort level of discretion on a mother. If it is her concern and she asks for tips on how to discreetly nurse, I will do so. Feelings and discomfort of others are something to be handled differently, and goes below our goals to 1) feed the child, 2) support the mother. I am hoping we’re all mostly mature enough to understand that. There has been so much that occurred between the time when public nursing was accepted to these times of altered norms and values that we have a lot of ground to cover before people accept that mammary glands are what they are. I hope someday seeing nursing women in public becomes the norm again. Do you imagine a world where people would be offended by the sight of a formula-feeding mother? I can’t but who knows? It might happen.
  • To all the trolls commenting about ogling mothers nursing, please do approach and ogle me when I am nursing because I would love to slap you with a lawsuit for acts of lewd conduct and sexual harassment. Those hiding behind fake accounts, you only become significant when you use your real name and face. Before that you are nothing but a loser and a coward, not just online, but I highly suspect, in real life as well.

The Right To Breastfeed: An Open Letter to the SM Supermalls Management

Let me break the happy-happy-joy-joy tone of my blog for one post. Below is a letter I am addressing to the management of SM Supermalls, following some very disturbing reports of breastfeeding mothers being harassed by the mall’s security guards.

Background: Paola Loot, head mommy of Mommy Treats, received a report from one of her clients, Mona Lisa Valle, that she was told to stop breastfeeding in public last December 3, 2011. Mona was sitting at the tables of a doughnut shop, waiting for her husband, and needed to breastfeed her baby. No stranger to breastfeeding in public, she did so without much thought.

As she was nursing, a security guard approached her and said, “Ma’am meron po tayong breastfeeding station. Doon po kayo magbreastfeed.” (Ma’m there is a breastfeeding station, please breastfeed there) To which she replied, “Alam kong may breastfeeding station. pero sa kabilang building pa yun. May hinihintay kasi kami. May problema ba?” (I know there is a breastfeeding station but it’s at the other building. We’re just waiting for someone. Is there a problem?)

Here’s the disturbing reply of the guard:

“Bawal po kasi magbreastfeed in public ma’am kaya nga may mga itinayong breastfeeding station ang SM para doon magbreastfeed.” (It is forbidden to breastfeed in public, ma’m, that is why SM put up a breastfeeding station so you can breastfeed there)

This was done in full view of everyone in the vicinity and it became a spectacle. In Mona’s words, “all people were staring at me as if I was a shoplifter or a criminal…he made me feel I did something terribly wrong”.

So here is my letter.

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To the Management of SM Supermalls:

I have long been a fan of your establishments. Not only is a trip to an SM mall a convenient shopping experience where everything is under one roof, I also like that the bathrooms are child-friendly, equipped with changing stations, and that there are ramps everywhere for strollers. I also like that you promoted breastfeeding by establishing breastfeeding stations that not only serve their purpose, but also stand as a symbol that mothers and their nurslings are welcome in SM.

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, Paola Loot, Noemi Dado, Nona Andaya-Castillo and myself visited the administration office of SM Megamall to report an incident of a mother being asked to cease breastfeeding in public by your security staff. She was told that breastfeeding in public was NOT ALLOWED in SM Malls and the purpose of the breastfeeding station was so that she can and should breastfeed there. We left our contact information with the people who entertained us. I told them that I will wait for their reply. The people we spoke to had no clue about any existing briefing, policy or guidelines about breastfeeding mothers. They were also clueless about the existence of the Expanded Breastfeeding Act, the law promoting and protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers.

At first I thought that it could’ve been an isolated incident, the mistake of one guard ignorant of how to approach a nursing mother or of the SM breastfeeding stand. But then we received two more reports of similar incidents: one in SM San Pablo and one in SM Davao. Both reports were the same as the one we received recently. Both mothers were told that breastfeeding in public WAS NOT ALLOWED in SM Malls and they SHOULD use the breastfeeding station.

What I really want to know are:

  1. What is SM Supermalls’ stand and policy on breastfeeding in public?
  2. How are your security staff briefed on how to approach breastfeeding mothers?
  3. Is there a written policy in your security handbook saying that breastfeeding mothers should be asked to STOP BREASTFEEDING in public?

I personally am disappointed, angered, and insulted by the reported incidents. As a breastfeeding mother, counselor and advocate, I know that it is hard enough for mothers to successfully breastfeed in the comforts of our own homes. Being harassed for breastfeeding in public, which takes courage for a lot of mothers out there, is something that is not helping the cause, and is something that is actually a hindrance to a mother’s right to give her child the best nourishment she can give.

I am waiting for the management’s response on the serious matter above, and I am hoping we can work on ways to reorient your staff and your security. I’m hoping this can be resolved and I still have faith that SM will listen and take steps to correct and educate their people. I am banking on all the awards and commendations your establishments have received for the SM Breastfeeding Program  to do so.

Sincerely,

Eliza Santiago-Ypon

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My stand:

  1. It is every woman’s right to breastfeed her child anywhere and anytime.
  2. Whether she bares her breast or uses a cover is HER CHOICE.
  3. No one has the right to tell a breastfeeding mother to go elsewhere to breastfeed or to cover herself because she is being offensive.

I still believe SM will listen. Their efforts to make their establishments family-friendly are commendable so far. I’m hoping they will not let us down, and that they will live up to the awards and commendations they’ve received from the Anvil Awards, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Department of Health for the SM Breastfeeding Program.

If you or a friend have ever experienced being harassed for breastfeeding in public and would like to share your experience, please leave me a message through my Contact Form. I will keep your identity confidential if you wish, but I do invite you to step up and speak out. Have courage, because you are not alone.

This is far from over.