BMSG Annual Report for 2018-2019 – A Brief Outline

By BMSG Editorial Team

In the first week of May, BMSG had our Annual General Meeting (AGM). As usual, our AGM reported our initiatives, developments and milestones that BMSG has achieved in the past year. Here are some of the highlights as obtained from our Annual and Financial Reports.

Attendees at the Annual General Meeting on 4 May. [Credits: BMSG]

Increasing Interest in BMSG Breastfeeding Programmes

BMSG is known to provide counselling and mother-to-mother support to all breastfeeding mothers in the community. Throughout the years, the way we provide such services has evolved. From just phone counselling in the 1980s, we now provide counselling services across several platforms, namely online (Facebook support group), WhatsApp, email as well as the phone helpline.

Our WhatsApp counselling service has gained popularity in the last year, gaining over 700 counselling cases within a year.

  • Increase in Counselling Channels

Based on a review of our counselling channels, we find that there has been significant increases in those which offer more online participation. Our closed Facebook group had a surge of members and now stand at 13,000 members and counting. Our WhatsApp counselling service has also garnered over 700 counselling cases just in the past one year year. With the introduction of services such as Chinese WhatsApp and WhatsApp groups for post-workshop support for our participants, this value-added service has definitely gathered significant traction in the past year.

Our counsellor Lanie (left) conducting a Mum 2 Mum Meetup at BMSG office earlier this year. [Credits: BMSG]

  • Increased interest in Face-to-Face Counselling

Our Mum 2 Mum meetups, our free monthly breastfeeding support meeting, have seen consistent attendance among mothers especially in the past year. With the introduction of the weekend sessions for working mothers, we found that more mothers are able to attend our meetups to seek assistance for their breastfeeding queries. As the weekend session is focused on working mothers, we discovered that mothers are asking work-related questions on how to manage their breastfeeding goals. This is a good complement to our physical workshops as it is a shorter session and and we can directly address their specific concerns.

Increase in Number of Counsellor Trainers

As part of improving the quality of our counselling services, BMSG takes a serious view on skills upgrading for its volunteer counsellors. While BMSG volunteer counsellors previously only had a senior counsellor who received training to become a trainer, in early 2019, BMSG decided to invite existing and senior counsellors to trainer as trainers for potential counsellors. Eight existing senior counsellors took up the invitation and underwent a training conducting by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). They successfully graduated from the training and are now taking turns to train at the current Counsellor Training 2019.

Significant Presence on Social Media

We have a strong followership on the World Wide Web. With over 10,000 likes on our Facebook page and an increase of 700 subscribers to our monthly newsletter (as compared to 200 subscribers in early 2018), we believe that we are moving in the right direction in positioning ourselves as an approachable and credible service provider. We stand fast to our believe that we remain as accessible to as many mothers and their family members as possible in addition to providing most of our services for free.

Our breastfeeding workshops are conducted monthly and taught by our volunteer breastfeeding counsellors. [Credits: BMSG]

Increase in Workshops & Talks

Our workshops and talks continue to be highly sought by parents. Our Breastfeeding 101 and Breastfeeding & Going Back to Work workshops remain popular and are sold-out often. Due to popular demand and affordable tickets, we are working towards conducting our workshops monthly from the second half of 2019.

Beyond paid workshops, we have been providing our services to members of the public in social settings. The Breastfeeding & Babywearing Workshops are co-organised by the BMSG, Babywearing Singapore and the National Library, and have been held  at various libraries monthly since the beginning of this year.

We are very excited to announce that we have started collaborating with other organisations, such as the People’s Association and private companies, to provide more services for the public. Look out for updates on our social media pages!

Our volunteer counsellor, Eve Van de Perre, conducting a talk at one of our public libraries. [Credits: Jasmine Tan Tai]

Future Plans

As always, we continue to review our initiatives and programmes to serve mothers better. We are excited to continue planning for the next year in order to engage breastfeeding mothers and their families. Works are in the pipeline for our annual flagship event, the Big Latch On, as well as niche events such as Tea With Breastmilk, a get-together with mothers to discuss breastfeeding-related topics and our annual public health talk.

Our Big Latch On event saw over 100 attendees in 2018. Here, our then-President Elaine Chow (in pink) with our Guest-of-Honour MP Rahayu Mahzam (centre) and Dr Yvonne Ng (left) from National University Hospital, who was our co-organiser. [Credits: BMSG]

Newly-elected Executive Committee

As this year also marks the end of the 2017-2019 EXCO, we were excited to welcome new members to the team during the AGM. This year, we were surprised to have close to 20 nominations! After a short but exciting presentation by each nominee, we each voted on whom we wanted to be on the committee. Do look out for our subsequent articles where we will introduce our new EXCO members for you to get to know them better.

Our nominees for the BMSG EXCO presenting their speeches before the voting process begins. [Credits: BMSG]

For a more comprehensive read of our milestones and developments, do click on the following links which are accessible to the public:

BMSG Annual Report

BMSG Financial Report for 2018-2019

BMSG’s newly-elected EXCO for 2019-2021. Read more about them in our next article! [Credits: BMSG]

We hope to have your continued support in our initiatives!

Dec 2018 Newsletter: Why Artificial Feeding for Infants Should be the Last Resort: Observations from Maureen Minchin’s talk

By Khatim Hamidon, Vice-President, BMSG
Photos courtesy of Alexandria Neoh, Picspirations Photography

Formula milk shrinks penises.

At least, that was one of the revelations about artificial feeding that stuck in my mind during a talk by Maureen Minchin, a renowned Australian breastfeeding researcher. The talk, titled Infant Feeding and Modern Epidemics: Obesity, Allergy, Autism, Diabetes, was organised by the BMSG  last November.

Maureen Minchin has studied the effects of artificial feeding for the short and long term.

Minchin, who pioneered the field of lactation consultancy, was in Singapore under the invitation of the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy (Singapore) (ABAS), and was also promoting her book, Milk Matters: Infant feeding & Immune Disorder, which took almost five years and not without sweat, tears and sacrifices to complete.

Formula feeding is wrought with sensitivity, with mothers pitted against each other on which mode of feeding is “better”. Minchin, however, did not shy away from the fact that formula milk should only be used as the last resort on what an infant should be fed during her talk. This was also an important tenet that underlies her writing.

Many people know about the benefits of breastfeeding (which is not a “benefit” to begin with, because breastfeeding should be the norm!). Breastfeeding reduces childhood illnesses, improves mothers’ health and promotes bonding between mother and child.

Minchin bravely delved into this further. She posited the milk hypothesis, in which breastfeeding is critical in transitioning a baby from a life inside the womb to a thriving life outside of it.

From health professionals, to breastfeeding counsellors, mothers and members of the public – all were interested to hear what Minchin had to share.

Breastmilk is the species-specific building blocks of the baby’s growth and development. An infant’s gut is permeable for this reason: to absorb stem cells and growth factors, besides the nutrients and antibodies in breastmilk, so as to develop optimally.

When breastfeeding is not realised, and the baby is exposed to formula milk instead, this will trigger epigenetic changes.

Babies exposed to formula milk are developing on ingredients that are not easily absorbed by their tiny bodies, and instead can be harmful to their gut – for example, synthetic nutrients derived from marine algae – which results in the baby’s development not following the same trajectory as that of a breastfed baby. This in turn affects babies right to the cellular level, skews the gut microbiome and this may be manifested both in the short and the long term hence why the various list of modern epidemics that Minchin shared with us in the title of her talk: obesity, eczema, PCOS, precocious puberty…and shrinking penises.

That is not all. These changes are also vertically communicated from the parent (either mother or father) to their children, and compounded through generations, as more and more babies are introduced to the supposedly modern artificial feeding.

It goes without saying that Minchin’s position is not shaming parents who are not breastfeeding their infants. On the contrary, she means that the majority of parents are not fully informed on the harms of artificial feeding. “How many OBGYNs actually talk to mothers about the importance of breastfeeding?” she asked the audience.

Minchin shared that a mother of a sick child cried when she read Minchin’s book, and exclaimed that she was relieved that whatever that her child was going through, was not her “fault” as a mother. That truly pierced my heart, because this was essentially a mother trying her best caring for her child and fighting the inadvertent product of previous generations.

It goes without saying that Minchin’s position is not shaming parents who are not breastfeeding their infants. On the contrary, she means that the majority of parents are not fully informed on the harms of artificial feeding. “How many OBGYNs actually talk to mothers about the importance of breastfeeding?” she asked the audience.

Some of BMSG’s volunteer counsellors and EXCO members with Minchin (centre, in black).

It feels quite bleak when you think about the generations of populations around the world introduced to unnecessary artificial feeding, and the well-meaning but damaging belief that it is a cure-all for almost any ailment: jaundice, weight loss, ineffective suckling, etc. Perhaps so many illnesses and health conditions could have been averted should young infants receive only what their sensitive tummies are meant to only fully digest: breastmilk.

But all is not lost. “Epigenetic changes do persist, but don’t persist forever,” Minchin explained, “…if we can manage to get the right care for breastfeeding babies for a few generations, we may be able to revert back to a better baseline genome.”

As the saying goes, when we know better, we do better. Let’s hope we continue to breastfeed, not just for ourselves, but also for our communities and society.

Minchin concluded with a stirring dénouement that, to me, simply cannot be summarised:

“Every one of you who is actually breastfeeding or has breastfed, has changed history for the better. You’ve helped to make the world a healthier place. You can regard yourself as (a) positive miracle worker, having succeeded in a society that stacked against success, structurally, in every way. If society just understood how really good breastmilk is, every mother would have been paid to stay home and breastfeed, or employ a wet nurse to do the job for her.”

I wanted to burst out crying. Mothers; we are miracle workers. Continue to advocate for breastfeeding for your child’s health, and for your child’s child’s health. We can make this world a better place.

Visit Maureen Minchin’s site here for more information on her work. You may also want to consider getting her book, Milk Matters: Infant feeding & Immune Disorder, which is sold at the BMSG website for $95. Part of the proceeds will go towards the BMSG.