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Monday, May 19, 2008

Breastfeeding Bill?

This recent week one mailing list I join has been talking about the plan of the Health Institution of South Sulawesi to issue a provincial bill to (somewhat) force women who just deliver babies to breastfeed them as well as to manage the distribution of formula milk in the area. The deputy head of the Health Institution, Saad Bustam said that there was a tendency for women (especially working women) nowadays to give their babies formula milk instead of breastfeed them with practicality as the main reason while in fact it is believed that mothers’ milk is the best for babies. The background of this plan is because Human Development Index of the area is in the twenty-third rank. It is assumed that giving mothers’ milk to the babies will improve the quality of human resources in the area so that in the future it is expected to be able to increase the Human Development Index.

pic was taken from here

The discussion of this subject in the mailing list is related to the anti pornography bill that eventually just makes women criminals. For example, women are not allowed to wear sheer clothes that will turn on men in public places. When sexual abuse is done by those men, due to the sheer clothes women wear, the women will be imprisoned. So, instead of protecting women from sexual abuse, the anti pornography bill just makes women criminals.

So will the “mothers’ milk bill”, I assume. When a woman cannot breastfeed her baby—with so many reasons, such as the woman has to go out of town to work while she doesn’t have money to bring the baby with her so that she has to leave the baby in the village where the grandmother, or any other female relatives, takes care of the baby, or because of natural cause, the woman cannot produce any milk from her breasts, which is oftentimes possible to happen—the woman will be put in jail, or pay fine.

A good thing has been done by the Health Institution though: providing special rooms for women who want to breastfeed their babies in malls so that the women do not do that in open public areas. Related to the anti pornography bill, a woman can be imprisoned too when she breastfeeds her baby in a public area. She will be accused to intentionally show the sensual part of her body—breasts.


When delivering my baby in 1991, I did that in one midwife’s house close to my dwelling place. Before my breasts produced milk, the assistant of the midwife prepared a glass of sugared water to give Angie when she was crying because of feeling thirsty or hungry. We used a small teaspoon to put the water into Angie’s tiny mouth. (She weighed 2.6 kg and 49 cm long.) Several hours after that, my breasts produced milk and I could breastfeed Angie directly. The midwife also prepared a box of formula milk in case we needed that. The midwife opined that it was better not to give the baby any formula milk yet before the mother produced milk.

I concluded that the midwife wanted to indirectly campaign to breastfeed babies for women who delivered babies in her house. This is absolutely good.

FYI, I breastfed Angie till she was four months old without giving her any other milk or any food. After that, I still breastfed her until she was one year old, (because I had to resume my study out of town and she was with her granny) but of course plus food. I started to give her formula milk when I was busy resuming my study.


Recently when some good friends of mine got married, got pregnant, and then delivered their babies in hospitals (not in a midwife’s house like my experience), I heard similar experiences. Before their breasts produced milk, the nurses gave the babies formula milk when the babies cried. They apparently didn’t have patience to wait until the babies’ mothers could breastfeed them. Or perhaps there was cooperation between the hospital and the formula milk distributors for profit.

What happened after that? Some friends told me that their babies didn’t want to drink the mother’s milk, they chose the formula milk instead. That was the first liquid they tasted and they didn’t want any other. Some others said that they still could breastfeed their babies, but not as the main milk, only as the additional one.


Is breastfeeding included women’s destiny? So that they are not supposed to avoid it? I don’t agree with it although only women have breasts, and not men. Under some special circumstances, some women cannot produce milk from their breasts although they just deliver babies. What is wrong? Well, I never know why.

When Angie was born in April 1991, there was a neighbor of mine who delivered her baby several weeks afterwards. Without knowing why, her breasts didn’t produce any milk so that she had to give her baby formula milk. She felt very disappointed but any effort she did to make her breasts produce milk was in vain. Was she a bad mother? Of course not. What happened was really beyond her capability.

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