The 32nd Guam Legislature was holding a public hearing. A young mom bounced toward the front. “I’m breast feeding and, well, the reactions are troubling. I’ve spoken with other moms who share the struggles they have with breast feeding. Aunty Marie said you were the senator to speak with.”
And with that, PL 32-098 “The Nana yan Patgon Act” was conceived.
As with all Families First! initiatives, there were countless round table conversations. There were many community members interested in the notion of increasing the health of growing babies through the natural act of breast feeding.
After sharing their joy of giving birth, they shared the painful journey of breast feeding. We celebrated Barbara – from Sagua Managu and Kirsten - from the military, who coach moms along the way. Health benefits outweigh the pain. They acknowledged that eventually, baby and mom get the hang of breast feeding.
Moms shared the dilemma of needing to earn a pay check and wanting to continue breast feeding.
Stories were shared about locking themselves in toilet stalls to express their milk. Some shared the struggles they had in excusing themselves from their work station when the swelling demanded expressing.
A person asked why moms just didn’t express all milk in the morning. Laughter erupted. I quietly shared that the comment was not in jest. The moms just stared.
That reinforced the need to strengthen awareness of breast feeding – the health aspects and the physical support needed to help moms continue to breast feed. This includes paid break time and a location other than a toilet where a mom can express milk in privacy without harassment or penalty.
Government agencies shall provide breastfeeding private designated areas. The A.B. Won Pat International Airport opened their family room where travelers may nurse in privacy and safety. Thank you, Chuck and Jean! The DPHSS opened its breastfeeding room. Everyone’s faces brought back wonderful memories of how working together delivers meaningful outcomes. Terry, Adelina, Alex, Rose, Charles, Diana – if they ever decide to retire, it is hoped the new cohort has the same passion for supporting healthy, happy families. Jim & Leo have much to be proud of.
At GMH, a breastfeeding section is included in the labor, delivery, postpartum plans for the maternity ward. June carries the flag there.
Shane and Robert at HR DOA developed Department of Administration Organizational Circular No. 15-019. This puts into operational policy PL 32-098. Director Tony Blaz, at the time, gave clear guidance that each agency shall provide a safe, clean area other than a toilet stall, where a nursing mom, who is an employee of the Government, can express her milk in private without any discrimination.
This statute captures what can be accomplished when everyone works together. Tanum’s mom spoke up. The Guam Legislature listened. Private sector and military partners joined the table where advocates at DPHSS faithfully stated concerns. These focus groups determined to strengthen a practice that was within reach but needed strong policy statements that breast feeding was to be respectfully supported – at work and in public. Cathy from the Chamber of Commerce was present & supportive.
As well, there was conversation about developing the breast milk industry. Across the nation, families can find milk banks – for their babies and, just as intriguing, to provide medicinal intervention. Breast milk is known to help with skin problems. For me, this economic potential is hopeful and meaningful.
With full support from the Guam Legislature, Governor Calvo signed the Nana yan Patgon Act on Nov. 27, 2013.
Yes, breastfeeding is a natural beauty that makes a difference. But, know support is needed. God Bless!
Aline Yamashita is an educator and a former senator of the Guam Legislature.