Ask Me, and I Will Follow You Down

How do you recognize a midwife who’s already trained to be a breastfeeding counselor? And who do you ask about breastfeeding if you go to puskesmas, local health facilities around Indonesia?

Those two questions became apparent when Mercy Corps’ Healthy Start Program had already trained several midwives as Breastfeeding Counselors. How would we differentiate them with the ones who had not been trained? After all, there are many midwives around the neighborhoods and villages where we work, and not all of them have been trained.
A press conference, held jointly by Mercy Corps and the North Jakarta government, launches the “Kasih ASI? Tanya Saya!” poster and badge campaign to support the Healthy Start Program, raising awareness of proper breastfeeding. Photo: Elpido Soplantila/Mercy Corps

So last year, with the help of a graphic designer and communication consultant, we invented a badge that can be pinned on every Breastfeeding Counselor’s shirt. Designing and making the badge took more than a year, just to make sure that everything was right. We took lots of steps along the way.

First, we had to match the objective of the badge-making with the design. The objective of the badge is to be the sign of a trained Breastfeeding Counselor. It is to recognize their existence and importance in the community. It communicates that, now, there is a trust person who can answer all questions about breastfeeding for mothers.

Second, the design. The logo and tagline needed to be catchy enough to grab people’s attention. The combination of color was also an important aspect. I conducted several focus group discussions just to measure accuracy and perceived meaning of the logo and design. We wanted the badge to capture the image of bonding between a mother and her baby, as well as support from the mother’s environment, such as family, counselor and health provider, and government.

Third, the tagline presented another challenge. Our aim of making the badge was to make people start asking while they see or read the words “Kasih ASI? Tanya Saya!” In English, this means “Breastfeeding? Ask me!”

We are fully aware that the challenges of breastfeeding cannot be countered with just a badge. These challenges need specific and tailored answers for the questions, problems and situations of each mother. But we hope that this badge will make people start asking these trusted Breastfeeding Counselors about breastfeeding.

Today, the badge has become the true sign of every Breastfeeding Counselor and Motivator. They wear it with pride and honored.

“People recognize me as the woman on the train who’s received training as a Breastfeeding Counselor,” said Ibu Ita, who always rides the train to get where she needs to go in Jakarta. As a member of the Midwives’ Association who received training through Mercy Corps, mothers now recognize her as someone who knows a lot about breastfeeding and is willing to answer any kind of question about breastfeeding.

“People started asking me, ‘what is that badge that you are wearing? And what’s the meaning?’” another midwife told me.
Ibu Tatiek Fauzi Bowo, the wife of Jakarta’s Governor, wears a Breastfeeding Counselor’s badge in support of Mercy Corps’ Healthy Start Program. Photo: Julisa Tambunan/Mercy Corps

Even if people don’t know the meaning of the badge, at least they are questioning about it. That’s also the purpose of the badge, to make people start to wonder about it. Once the Breastfeeding Counselor realizes that people are staring at the badge, then they can start talking about their work. Interesting, eh?

On a few occasions, we’ve even pinned the badge to Ibu Tatiek Fauzi Bowo, the wife of Jakarta’s Governor. Two years ago, she became an ambassador for Breastfeeding Counselors in Jakarta. We also pinned the badge to Jack Newman, a breastfeeding expert from Canada who came to Jakarta to give seminars in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 2009. He wore it with pride every day during his time at Jakarta.

If they lose the badge, the Breastfeeding Counselors immediately ask for a new one. Because now, they would feel empty without the badge on the right side of their uniform.

There are 239 Breastfeeding Counselors spread throughout Jakarta, as well as 458 breastfeeding motivators in North Jakarta, who have been trained by Mercy Corps’ Healthy Start Program and its partners.

“We are ready to answer anything about breastfeeding, here is the proof!” said many motivators and counselors, pointing to their badges, when I met them during World Breastfeeding Week, which took place last month. It was the first event that gathered all the counselors and motivators in Jakarta.

Let’s hope that the more people see the badge, the more questions they’ll ask.

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