June 2019 Newsletter: EXCO Spotlight – Khatim Hamidon

by BMSG Editorial Team

1) Tell us more about yourself! What got you started in BMSG?

Khatim and her two children. [Credits: Khatim Hamidon]

Besides being President of BMSG as an EXCO member, a peer counsellor and a trainer, I am  a mother of two, a wife, and an executive with a local charity (not BMSG). My boys are aged 9 and 3.5. 

About 10 years ago, a former colleague had told me about BMSG. She was a volunteer counsellor, and almost every conversation I had with her, she slip in some snippet about breastfeeding and natural birthing, and how these empower women. It made me rethink the idea of breastfeeding and how natural and normal it is. I then started researching about breastfeeding when I found out that I was pregnant, and started influencing my husband all about it. 

When my firstborn was a few months old, I joined a Facebook group that gives breastfeeding support to local Malay-Muslim mothers. After following the posts for some months, I found out that I could start providing suggestions to other  breastfeeding mothers needing support too! The administrators then encouraged me to attend the BMSG volunteer counsellor training and I jumped at that chance to be able to provide better advice and support.

2) You are also one out of a few of our longest serving volunteers. How has the organisation evolved?

Khatim (2nd from left, top row) with her fellow BMSG volunteers at the launch of the KKH Milk Bank in 2017. [Credits: Khatim Hamidon]

I joined the BMSG in 2011 – and goodness knows the amount of change has occurred. The most impressive change, in my opinion, is our widening pool of dedicated and trained volunteer counsellors. Years ago,  it was a struggle to maintain volunteers for our services, such as manning the hotline and facilitating our breastfeeding workshops.

Now, we have over forty active volunteer counsellors who are rostered for our counselling hotline, email account and facilitating our workshops. They are also the ones who fill the ranks for our Facebook groups, WhatsApp line, mother meet-ups, and various talks and events.

 I am so humbled that we have managed to attract mothers to volunteer to spend their free time and attend the counselling training sessions, and then continue to help empower other mothers!  It is very satisfying to know that over the years, BMSG will continue to play a part in increasing local awareness and understanding on why breastfeeding matters.

 

3) Now that you are President, what are some of the things you wish to work on during your term?

Khatim (top right in pink hijab) with the BMSG team during the talk by renowned breastfeeding advocate Maureen Minchin (bottom row, 2nd from left) in 2018.

The previous EXCOs have done amazingly well at growing the organisation to what it is now. I consider myself lucky to be helming BMSG at this period where awareness on breastfeeding is much higher than what it was less than ten years ago. 

During my term, I aim to improve our volunteer management and welfare, so that my team of volunteers will continue to give awesome breastfeeding support to mothers and families.

 I want BMSG to reach out to the younger generation of students to tell them why breastfeeding is important and that it is what mammals do to feed their young. Such that as they mature and become adults, breastfeeding then becomes their new normal. 

I would also like to work on getting stronger support from the community as a whole. We are a small charity run by volunteers, providing breastfeeding support across Singapore. We are as lean as can be, but to grow further for more accessibility we need regular contributions from our supporters. 

 

4) You also represent the BMSG at SIFECS and IBFAN. Could you tell us a bit more about these advocacy efforts that you are part of as BMSG’s representative?

Khatim (seated, 2nd row, first from left) at the IBFAN regional meet in Jakarta, 2018. [Credits: Khatim Hamidon]

SIFECS stands for the Sale of Infant Foods Ethics Committee Singapore. It is an ethical code that guides the sales and marketing of infant foods in Singapore in order to protect and promote breastfeeding. SIFECS can simply be said to be the Singaporean version of the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes.

 The code is targeted at formula and baby food companies, healthcare institutions and businesses so that they comply with the rules. With the new update of the SIFEC codes, including expanding its scope from infants 0-6 months to 0-12 months, increased restrictions on sponsorships received by healthcare institutions among other developments, I am proud of the efforts of the SIFECS committee who has worked very hard on the revisions. A strict code will help consumers make better decisions on what is best due to higher ethical marketing standards. This is important, as predatory marketing – when the information received by consumers are inaccurate and/or misleading – moots informed consent. 

 It is important to note that the SIFECS website encourages the public to also be part of the effort in spotting any breaches of the code. Anyone can send feedback to the Health Promotion Board (HPB) for action here.

BMSG would also continue to educate and empower parents to become informed consumers, when making decisions on infant and toddler feeding. My goal is that the near future, the SIFECS code will be further expanded to include follow-on formula milk and baby food for babies beyond the age of 12 months old, just as the WHO Code does.  

IBFAN, on the other hand, or the International Baby Foods Action Network, is a network of public interest groups across the world whose goal is to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices. BMSG is proud to be an affiliate of IBFAN Southeast Asia.

In the recent years, BMSG representatives have attended its workshops and I have been blessed to have participated in its meetings in Hong Kong and Jakarta (I wrote about my experiences here.) It has honed my views to be more critical on what breastfeeding protection and promotion are truly about: it is definitely more than just a mother’s choice. The knowledge that breastmilk can sustain a baby to survive and thrive, without the need for baby formula and foods up till toddlerhood, is one that empowers women and families not to rely on expensive and imported foods to raise healthy children.

We shared experiences and information with fellow delegates from the Asian nations, and I am amazed by their level of ingenuity to make breastfeeding work. They made breastfeeding supported by all stakeholders in a society: families, communities, health institutions and even their governments. Everyone played a role, because they understand that breastfeeding is a public health concern, not just for the dyad. I look forward to learning more from fellow breastfeeding advocates from around the region and beyond. 

 

5) What would be your goal for breastfeeding in Singapore?

Khatim (left) with President Halimah Yaacob and Elaine Chow, BMSG’s immediate past President, at an Istana event in 2018 when Khatim was then BMSG’s Vice-President. [Credits: Elaine Chow]

 BMSG exists because breastfeeding is still not seen as something normal. In generations past, breastfeeding support was innate within a community; mothers breastfed their babies, because that is what their mothers did. The confinement period ensured that both the mother and baby dyad are well taken care of. If a mother could not breastfeed her baby, cross-nursing and/or wet-nursing were accepted as an good alternative.

Unfortunately, today many new mothers are unable to access postpartum help or even get help from their families.  My goal is for breastfeeding to be NORMAL and to be expected in Singapore, and that it is understood as a public health concern.

We have seen progress, with the swelling number of membership in our breastfeeding support group on Facebook (over 16,000 online members now), with more hospitals certified as BFHI, and with the proliferation of breastfeeding paraphernalia in baby shops.

We can still do more. We should expect more. We would wait for a governmental action but we mothers could still affect change on the ground– every action works to permeate into the community (just like how I was convinced with my colleague!).

So we ask you to nurse your baby (or your toddler) anyway and everywhere.  Do not be intimidated if you need to ask your doctor for breastfeeding-friendly medication from your doctor. Stand firm to what you believe in and that you are doing the best that you can for your baby and yourself. 

 

6) Any last words?

Khatim (top row, first from left) at a Lactation Massage workshop by Filipino breastfeeding advocate Inez Fernandez (seated, first from right) in 2019. [Credits: Khatim Hamidon]

I am thankful for the confidence shown to me to lead this organisation. We have a great team for this term and we will achieve our goals during these two years.

 I am thankful for the mothers and their families for trusting us and believing that we are respected as a source for breastfeeding support.

 I am also thankful for the past contributions of former BMSG activists. We will pass on this legacy to future teams!

 Last but not least, I am thankful for the understanding from my family – BMSG work is extra work and sometimes it keeps me away from my loved ones. But I believe the little that I do will benefit the future generations to live in an environment where breastfeeding is seen and appreciated as part of life. 

Introducing BMSG’s 2019-2021 EXCO

By BMSG Editorial Team
Photo Credits: Lisa Matthews from Lisa Matthews Photography

Our newly-elected EXCO for 2019-2021. Many of our EXCO members are actively serving counsellors and volunteers.

We are extremely glad to introduce you to our EXCO members for 2019-2021!

EXCO members are key in making important decisions for our organisation and they work very hard behind the scenes to provide opportunities and support to breastfeeding mothers in Singapore. Apart from the operational running of the charity, EXCO members also take on  various roles such as, and not limited to:

  • Coming up with new initiatives and events to help make breastfeeding more inclusive and normalised
  • Conducting explorations and research in the areas of support that counsellors provide
  • Developing training content and materials for counsellors and ensure that counsellors are kept abreast with the latest in breastfeeding knowledge
  • Exploring ways to  make the organisation more sustainable and accessible to the public

…and many more!

Without further ado, here are the 12 newly appointed members of the BMSG EXCO for 2019-2021!

Khatim Hamidon, President

Khatim served as the Vice-President in the previous Exco and is currently an executive at a local Voluntary Welfare Organisation. The mother-of-two  is also one of the longest serving counsellor and volunteer in BMSG. As someone who has been on the board for a number of years, she sees her role evolving from breastfeeding supporter to advocate. She aspires to make breastfeeding the norm for all babies and families and is interested in breastfeeding education for the masses.

Elaine Chow, Vice-President

Elaine was the President of the 2017-2019 EXCO. The mother-of-four, who has recently welcomed a newborn, is excited to focus her work on the quality of BMSG’s counselling services and to continue contributing to the breastfeeding community. Elaine had kickstarted several key initiatives in expanding the potential of the organisation while in the previous EXCO and her role remains key in sustaining these initiatives. Elaine remains passionate to help mothers and continues to serve as a counsellor on BMSG’s counselling channels on top of her work as an EXCO member.

Far’ain Jaafar, Secretary

Mother-of-two, children’s book author, educator and birth doula, Far’ain strives to champion women in mothering and motherhood through empowerment and mother-to-mother support. Far’ain previously served on the BMSG EXCO for 2017-2019 as a member and is currently still serving as a counsellor on BMSG’s hotline since 2017.

Atiqah Halim, Treasurer

Atiqah is a public officer, blogger and writer in her free time. She shares about her family travel escapades online and interacts on social media with fellow family travel junkies. She is also a children’s book author. Atiqah is passionate about giving mothers the right support as she feels that can make all the difference in a mother’s breastfeeding journey. As an actively-contributing counsellor, Atiqah has been serving mothers on BMSG’s counselling channels and also frequently facilitates the Breastfeeding & Going Back to Work workshop.

MEMBERS

Mythili Pandi

Mythili, a mother of three,  is a practicing doctor and is also one of the lead assessors on board the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) team. Mythili has also been serving BMSG for many years now and was also once President. As a representative of BMSG at the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy (Singapore) (ABAS), Mythili is passionate about reaching out to doctors in promoting breastfeeding both in the community and in the medical realms.

Ellen Nepilly

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Ellen has a private practice in Singapore. Ellen, who is also a mother to a boy and a pair of girl twins, is also a health nutritionist. Her experience raising premature twin babies and the tremendous breastfeeding support she received back then in a foreign country has fuelled her drive to help other women. Ellen hopes to give back to the community by providing information and support just as well as she had received during her early days of breastfeeding.

Jasmine Tan Tai

Jasmine is an adult educator and babywearing consultant. Her experiences with her children have led her find passion in helping new parents through the many hats that she plays. She aspires to bring the knowledge and beauty of breastfeeding to the next generation by engaging teenagers and youths. Together with her interest in digital marketing, it is her dream to impact  engage more families with the natural beauty of breastfeeding both online and in real-life. Jasmine is also studying to become an IBCLC.

Siti Nuraidah

When Siti was still an undergraduate, she had discovered BMSG in the course of her studies and speaking with breastfeeding advocates back then left a lasting impression of her. A civil servant and a full-time working mother, Siti has regularly contributed as a workshop facilitator in BMSG during the past two years. She is also an actively serving counsellor on several of BMSG’s counselling channels despite her busy schedule. As an EXCO member, she would like to continue the good work of the organization in providing informed mother-to-mother support and opening up new opportunities to help less-privileged mums. She is also studying towards becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Nor Faizah Masod

Mother-of-four Faizah is an early childhood specialist and works as a doula on the sidelines. Having breastfed all of her four children till the age of 2 with some hiccups along the way, Faizah is committed to providing mother-to-mother support especially when they face roadblocks along the way. Faizah has also been on the EXCO for the past two years and desires to make a difference by contributing her skills in event management to the organisation.

Alona Hodik

A childbirth educator and studying to become an IBCLC, Alona is a dedicated breastfeeding counsellor with the BMSG. She is also due to complete her IBCLC certification by the end of the year. Alona is a mother-of-three who is passionate about helping other mothers and is frequently seen on the BMSG’s Facebook group providing counselling support to distressed mums. As a BMSG board member, she would like to expand BMSG’s face-to-face counselling and establish a supportive breastfeeding community in Singapore.

Yen Lim

Yen is Director for a TCM healthcare service provider that has been in Singapore for the last 50 years. As a mother who has breastfed her 2 children, Yen believes that mothers deserve good postpartum support. She endeavours to create a breastfeeding  society where the mothers can become breastfeeding advocates for many generations to come.

Emma Bell

Emma is a trainee Breastfeeding Counsellor with the BMSG. Her breastfeeding journey was not straightforward and was hindered in the early days with misinformation, but in searching for the answers she discovered a passion for helping other women overcome their breastfeeding hurdles. Emma is currently breastfeeding her four year old daughter and is active online in breastfeeding support groups. She is passionate about helping new mothers access good information and support which will set them up with confidence to meet their breastfeeding goals.

We hope that you will continue to support our EXCO members, counsellors and volunteers who have made BMSG into what it is today after over 50 years of existence. Together, we will strive to  create a world where breastfeeding is the norm and that mother-to-mother support exists as part of the natural course of breastfeeding.

To read our EXCO members’ individual profiles, click here.