Many would agree that it takes a village to raise a child and more than 200,000 people in Singapore are part of over 550 Singapore-centric parenting groups. The today’s digital kampungs have a wider reach, they are more diverse and create new ways for Singaporeans to rally and support one another especially this period with many being affected by COVID-19.
The Singapore Parenting Facebook Groups represents a new digital kampung Facebook Groups that are helping parents on their parenting journey. These Groups are creating new ways for mothers and parents to rally and support one another, especially during the pandemic, showing our Singapore kampung spirit is alive and thriving. The three such Facebook groups that help parents to share resources and provide support are:
1) Young Mothers Of Singapore – an open support platform for mothers young at heart
2) Human Milk 4 Human Babies – breast milk donors and beneficiaries share milk in a system of ultimate trust
3) SG Mummies United – Support for mothers hit hard by Covid-19
In this three-part series, our team speaks to the founders of the three Singapore Parenting Facebook Groups where they will share more about their Facebook groups, parenting tips and more.
Singapore Parenting Facebook Groups that Incorporates The Kampung Spirit Series Part 2, we have Khatim Hamidon, 35, lovely mother of 2 sons, she is a corporate communications executive at a local charity. Currently, she is the administrator for Human Milk 4 Human Babies, started in 2010 as a Singapore chapter to the global community in Canada.
The non-profit, 100% volunteer-led group is now run by three administrators; Khatim Hamidon, Nabila Hanim A Razak and Nadyrah M Heallmy. The group was founded by another mother who has since passed the torch to the three administrators. As breastfeeding moms and activists, they fully understood breastfeeding as a necessary and valuable practice and wanted to connect moms to a platform that provided breastmilk as a plentiful resource that no mom should be deprived of. The three administrators met through a local breastfeeding group for Muslim mothers on Facebook back in 2011 or so.
Exclusive Interview with Khatim Hamidon of Human Milk 4 Human Babies, Singapore
1. Please share with us more about your background?
Khatim Hamidon: Human Milk 4 Human Babies, Singapore is run by three administrators and our background are as follows:
Khatim Hamidon: 2 boys, aged 10 and 5.
Nabila Hanim A Razak: 3 boys, aged 8, 7 and 4.
Nadyrah M Heallmy: 2 girls aged 6 and 7. 1 boy, aged 6.
2. Can you share your experiences in running Human Milk 4 Human Babies – Singapore? What are the challenges that you faced and how do you overcome them?
Khatim Hamidon: As with any community with many kinds of people that make it up, there are some ups and downs that we face. Now and then, a disappointed mother would feedback that the other party did not turn up at the appointed time and location. That was very unfortunate, and it made me feel angry on the behalf of the mother. We use these cases to publish community posts and remind members of exchange etiquette.
At times, mothers would also receive PMs from people who would want to use the donated milk for other than children’s consumption. This is beyond what the HM4HB mission stands for.
3. How do you create awareness for Human Milk 4 Human Babies – Singapore, build up the community, connect with mothers and foster friendships?
Khatim Hamidon: As a platform, we don’t actively look to create awareness of ourselves. We focus on the community – creating and republishing helpful posts to create a sense of community among donors and recipients.
Attention also spikes when there is any mention of human milk donation or milksharing in the media. The largest effect so far was when KK Hospital opened the recent milk bank in Singapore in 2017. Many had assumed that the milk bank would be a competitor, but we see it more as a comrade, as the bank opened doors and heightened awareness on breast milk donation. We also have different stakeholders. For one – the bank is limited as a prescription to very sick preemie babies in certain hospitals only. HM4HB is open for babies and children of all ages.
Facebook as a platform has allowed us to quickly and easily foster friendships and renew traditions with our community: women who trust one another and help each other in raising the next generation. While traditional milk-sharing and wet-nursing used to be restricted to women living close to one another in neighbourhoods, we’re grateful that operating on Facebook has made milk sharing possible in this day and age, regardless of physical boundaries or social circles. The features also help us easily vet posts beforehand, which is crucial to maintaining a harmonious community.
4. What can mothers expect and look out for when they join Human Milk 4 Human Babies – Singapore? What are the criteria to join?
Khatim Hamidon: Parents come here to benefit from the sharing of breastmilk. Usually the donors would be moms who have an oversupply, or have too many bags of milk in their overstocked freezers. The recipients would be mothers who are looking for breastmilk to supplement their babies due to a variety of reasons.
There are a couple of general criteria that we look for before we publish posts.
Firstly, we believe that parents should make matches themselves and not rely on a third party in getting/giving away breast milk, so as to ensure there is full transparency between donors and beneficiaries.
Secondly, all milk exchanges should have no commercial interest or benefit at all. A donor may not request for diapers or baby food or cash in exchange for milk. We will only allow remuneration in the form of milk bags, to replace the ones that donors had since used and given away. This is to safeguard the altruistic nature of the exchanges so that there would be no commercial gain from exchanging milk that can make the quality of the milk questionable.
Other than that, it’s basic etiquette between the parties – like ensuring a right and comfortable match through a transparent discussion, bringing your own ice packs and cooler, and meeting on time, while remaining grateful and respectful for the exchange that benefits both parties.
5. During the pandemic period, do you have some stories to share in your group where mothers and parents rally and support one another?
Khatim Hamidon: We were pleasantly surprised that interest in breast milk exchange did not wane during the peak of Covid-19. Posts continued to stream in without fail.
We usually see a lot of attention on a post (reactions and offers) when the donor/recipient has a compelling story to tell. The same thing happened the past few months since the pandemic and also the rising cases of dengue: earlier this year, a mother who is a front-liner and had no time to pump was asking for milk donations; more recently, a mother had dengue, and asked for milk donations as well.
We feel heartened that all these are happening; it shows the confidence mothers have in breast milk, especially during the pandemic, and in sharing their bounty with other mothers who need it for their own children for whatever reason. This is the proverbial village where the women support each other and raise children together.
6. How do you juggle a hectic schedule of working, being a mother and running a Facebook group? How does your family support you?
Khatim Hamidon: I am so grateful for the current HM4HB team that makes this platform continue to be a meeting point for parents to share breast milk. Some admins have come and gone over the years, and we totally understand that, as mothers are often busy and juggling so many things. I’ve been so grateful that we’ve managed to continue to exist as a team and a platform, as this is an extremely niche focus, and that this purely voluntary work can be tedious.
Which is why having team members who believe in the cause and are committed to help connect parents to share breastmilk is essential! We tag-team each other if it’s been a particularly busy period or if there are any special queries from people that needs answering, or even when one of us needs a break.
Our families understand why this work is important for us, and that is the best thing in the world already, for us to continue managing the platform and serving our community.
7. What are some of the best breastfeeding tips for new mothers and best parenting advices for parents that you have received that you would like to share?
Khatim Hamidon: Many people often think that breast milk is merely a food that can be easily replaced with artificial milk. I would advise parents to research more on this so that they can make a truly informed decision on what a baby should be fed.
As a breastfeeding advocate, if a baby is not breastfed by his/her mother, the next option is that the baby is fed by another mother. As a HM4HB advocate, I’d be pleased to inform mothers that we have their backs, that a whole community is there for them. Help for breastfeeding and milksharing is available; mothers are never alone in this journey.
8. Lastly, any coming activities or updates from Human Milk 4 Human Babies – Singapore that you would like to share with our readers? What’s your vision for Human Milk 4 Human Babies – Singapore in the next 5 years?
Khatim Hamidon: We will continue serving the community as a platform. We hope to share more resources on milksharing for mothers in the future.
Breastfeeding and milksharing are part of our culture that have largely been forgotten as our lives get more modern – but not necessarily better. We want to bring that back. Our dream at HM4HB is that want milk-sharing and wet-nursing to be commonplace and babies to be fed at women’s breasts whenever and wherever they need it. We dream of a world where mothers from previous generations pass on the tradition of breastfeeding and are a wealth of knowledge and support.
We hope that cross-nursing and milksharing will be normalised and get more acceptance as part and parcel of parenting children in Singapore these next few years, and that mainstream healthcare personnel would have enough awareness and understanding to suggest donor milk should there be a need.
Thank you Khatim Hamid for taking our interview!
Human Milk 4 Human Babies Singapore operates on the basis of trust, where donors and recipients of breastmilk can connect to fulfil their demand and supply woes. Often, the milk shared is used for special cases such as to nourish premature babies, babies allergic to formula milk, as well as mothers who might be ill and unable to breastfeed. Besides milk sharing, the community also prides itself on educating and raising awareness among mothers about breastfeeding. To find out more and join the group, please visit https://www.facebook.com/hm4hbSingapore/