Another significant challenge Mommy Margo encountered was finding out her younger daughter had food (and environmental) allergies. Her younger daughter, Maxine, has been exclusively breastfeed for 11 months. Being the primary source of her youngest daughter’s nutrition, Mommy Margo had to eliminate certain food in her diet, restricting herself to a limited range of food ingredients. She had to make sure the food she ate was safe for her daughter, a very tricky thing since the food items her daughter is allergic to are in almost every dish out there. Sadly, every rash that appeared on her daughter’s body would constantly make Mommy Margo blame herself for the meals she had the previous day. She knew there was no absolute way to pinpoint what could’ve caused the rash or discomfort, given that multiple factors could have caused it. She says, “I cannot personally say that we have overcome this difficulty yet, but through the help of her medical specialists, we at least were able to determine what food items she is allergic to as a guide for her diet as well as mine.” Thankfully, with the help of healthcare professionals and her personal determination to adjust her diet, Mommy Margo is now able to manage her daughters’ allergic reactions.
Lastly, we asked Mommy Margo what about breastfeeding would she want people to know. Her response was,
“What I want society to know about breastfeeding is that breastfeeding is one of the most natural yet magical expressions of love a mother can give to her baby. The wonders of breastmilk, even up to this day, is something science cannot fully explain. The magic of the mother’s body being able to change her breast milk composition based on her child’s health is just one of the many beauties of what breastmilk and a nursing mother can do. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. It takes a lot of dedication, patience and persistence to mold your own unique journey of breastfeeding your child.”
“I realized that breastfeeding is hard! It's painful, it’s messy, it's the most important thing your baby needs and it's a lot of pressure. But it's the labor of love, and it's rewards are beautiful.”
Mommy Anita says this fondly thinking of how nice it is to see Mav 'milk drunk' and fast asleep after a good feed.
Her journey as a first time mother simultaneously took place with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At one point, Mommy Anita came down with a fever. Despite this, her doctor advised her to continue breastfeeding with taking proper precautions, such as wearing a mask.
“I want society to know that breastfeeding is so essential, especially now that there is a pandemic, our babies need the antibodies found in breastmilk to strengthen their immunity. And it doesn't cost a thing!”
Mommy Anita expresses this while advising new moms who are considering breastfeeding to stay healthy, don’t give up and enjoy it because it doesn’t last forever. And lastly, she encourages new moms to donate their extra milk to help fellow mothers and babies in need.
“I think breastfeeding has definitely strengthened my bond with my babies. Even though it was sometimes very hard, it was always my special time with them.”
“It may be challenging but it is the best you can do for the nourishment of your child. It will create several changes in your body. Your body may never be the same anymore but remember, all the marks left are symbols of how powerful and exceptional the woman's body is.”
She and her daughter are able to share intimate moments during breastfeeding that strengthen their bond and bring them closer together as a family. It is in moments like those where Mommy Maloi knows she is giving the best parts of her self for her daughter. “It created a bond between us which has become significant to me in gaining motivation to be more optimistic of what motherhood will cost me as a first time mom.”
Aside from fostering a strong bond between mother and child through exclusive breastfeeding, she knew she was providing only the best for her daughter— “I felt that she got closer and more familiar with me and I felt fulfilled because of being able to provide nourishment to my child. We both enjoyed and showed satisfaction whenever my daughter feeds and I was so happy about seeing how healthy my baby was when I was still breastfeeding.”
However, not all breastfeeding journeys will be easy. Mommy Maloi had her fair share of struggles, “I remember how I cried during the first week while breastfeeding my baby due to painful, sore and wounded nipples. I [also had a] naturally abundant supply of milk but the presence of wounds made it unbearable for me sometimes.” Like a lot of moms, she experienced pains during breastfeeding but it did not stop her from pursuing exclusive breastfeeding. She shares how she was able to overcome those difficulties through manual expression, rest, and medication.
“What I did was I pumped and stored milk for my child and she fed through bottles for the mean time as I let my wounds heal before directly breastfeeding my child again. When I returned to direct breastfeeding after a week to allow my wounds to heal, I applied nipple gel twice a day to relieve pain and soreness.”
Despite the problems she has faced during motherhood and breastfeeding, she was able to persevere because of the love she had for her daughter. When asked if she would have done anything differently when she had first started breastfeeding, she said she wouldn’t have it any other way. Mommy Maloi sees motherhood as a beautiful gift where she is able to celebrate her womanhood and share the gift of life. “A lot of things has always been unpredictable for me as a first time mother, but it positively affected me and keeps me motivated to do better each day.” All the ups and downs of motherhood had all been worth it as Mommy Maloi sees her daughter grow up strong and healthy.
“…it just proves how a woman's body can give life and nourish a life… and that is what makes it valuable.”
Breastfeeding will always be with its stigmas and misconceptions but what Mommy Maloi wants us to know is that breastfeeding is not a thing to be to be ashamed of — “…it just proves how a woman's body can give life and nourish a life… and that is what makes it valuable.”
The lack of public education holds society back by keeping to old misconceptions, which is why she believes that access to the health information is crucial to ending the stigma. “The facts about [breastfeeding] must be strengthened and properly taught to all people, not just to mothers.” She also stresses the importance of breastmilk for the overall health and nutrition of infants and that it is a big factor in their brain development. Mommy Maloi wants mothers like her and soon-to-be moms to know the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding but also to be aware of the possible difficulties that could be faced. “It may be challenging but it is the best you can do for the nourishment of your child. It will create several changes in your body. Your body may never be the same anymore but remember, all the marks left are symbols of how powerful and exceptional the woman's body is.”
Sharing her story, Mommy Maloi hopes that her story will inspire moms and soon-to-be moms to find the time and determination to pursue exclusive breastfeeding for their children despite the challenges that could be faced.
“I must say as a mother to another mother, breastfeeding will cause beautiful changes in your life and will make you appreciate and love your own body even more. Be proud and carry on!”
Dr. Maria Angela "Gela" Villa (φ2011B, Class 2016) is a 2nd year pediatrics resident at the UP Philippine General Hospital (UP PGH). Together with her team, she founded Milk Matters five years ago. In this Express Yourself post, she shares her experiences and insights about the project that has blossomed through the years.
The Little Project that Could
We started out five years ago as a little passion project committed to address this problem: the Philippine General Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (PGH-NICU) had a breastmilk storage deficit of a staggering 16 liters. The goal back then was to help augment the supply for the sick babies who were in dire need of breastmilk. The babies were giving it all they got to survive, and we were committed to give them the only food indicated to help them fight their infections. To help them leverage for a fighting chance at life.
It still is the goal now, but five years into this little passion project called Milk Matters, Phi Lambda Delta Sorority knows there are bigger, relevant goals we can achieve not just for the babies in PGH NICU.
Five years later, Milk Matters evolved into a vision of committed medical students, doctors, community-based health volunteers and parish-based advocates dedicated to provide quality healthcare in the service of the Filipino children.
This vision, and more.
We are aiming towards evidence-based research that would help understand and promote breastfeeding and child health among urban poor communities.
We are aiming towards establishing milk storage facilities located in strategic partner communities to empower and promote child-rearing practices for both the mother and the baby. We currently have two sites: Tondo and Canossa Center in Cavite.
We are aiming towards interprofessional and international collaboration with the private and public health sectors pursuing similar goals.
These goals, and more.
We are not going to be complacent and rest on our laurels after having achieved numerous awards and citations, both in national and international arenas (Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations 2014 Winner, international presentations such as in Consortium of Universities for Global Health, recipient of international grants, etc.), all at the age of five years. These awards are a reminder that we are on the right path, and we are blessed enough to even be acknowledged.
Awards or no awards, we know service is our core. We know who we do this for, why we do what we do, how we will do it. The vision may not be 20/20 clear yet, but we are brave enough, compassionate enough, blessed enough to pursue the path set before us.
Five years, and more.
I thank the Lord for using me as an instrument to have spearheaded this worthy and meaningful project. Everything is grace, indeed. To my Phi sisses, and to all those who have helped us and believed in us and continue to do so, THANK YOU. No one can do Milk Matters alone. We are a dream team. I am beyond blessed.
PS. We started Milk Matters while I was a third year medical student. Don’t limit yourself with what you can do. Learning is not confined within the four walls of the classroom.
Link to original blog post: https://gelaace.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/the-little-project-that-could/?fbclid=IwAR1ta0EQNPB4oM8dsye2B542dUGMAVp-TQz-yPPuRfLTcyaUe1-oajmLpy0
For more information about Milk Matters, please visit facebook.com/PLDMilkMatters
Answering the Call
As a health and religious leader, Sister Yel is an inspiration to many members of the community and part of her advocacy is Milk Matters. She shares that during the early years of Milk Matters, back when it was just a proposal drafted on paper, she welcomed the project with open arms. Likewise, the women at the Canossa Health and Social Center in Silang, Cavite were ready to take part. Health promotion through public health lectures (PHLs) on breastfeeding, proper latch-on, and breastfeeding positions were conducted to educate the mothers and correct misconceptions. Common problems encountered were also tackled in PHLs by asking the moms to share their own personal experiences after which, solutions to those problems were given by fellow moms and by the students.
Together with the PHLs on breastfeeding, Milk Matters also conducts regular milk drives in the community, in partnership with PGH. These drives give mothers the opportunity to donate their breast milk to the babies of the PGH Neontal Intensive Care Unit (PGH NICU).
“The first time Milk Matters came to Cavite, it was quite a success. All the mothers, coming from indigent families, were excited to somehow give a part of themselves and give a contribution to the needs of the babies in the nurseries of PGH.”
Sister Yel describes Milk Matters as a “creative way of answering a need,“ because not only do the mothers gain the knowledge for themselves and their babies, but they are able to share something of themselves to other babies in need. Living in a resettlement area, Sister Yel sees the daily struggles and pains of families in the community. However, despite their situation, the mothers still willingly give what they have.
“They are happy, that even in their own poverty, they are able to share what they naturally have. It added to their sense of self-worth and self-esteem… Its a beautiful thing.”
Milk Matters serves as an avenue for growth for the mothers, the BHWs, and even for the members of the sorority who conduct the lectures. All the women that take part of Milk Matters are able to learn more about themselves and about each other. Sister Yel shares how much she appreciates Milk Matters because of the learnings that are shares, the love that is fostered, and the empowerment it gives.
“...I really saw the joy of the mothers. Sometimes they feel like they can only be in the receiving end of things. It’s not just you found a way to help the babies of PGH, but in a way- is an empowerment of women especially in my set up.”
Sister Yel shares what she taken home from all the years that Milk Matters has been in the community,
“What I have learned in Milk Matters is that poor people can generously assist people in need. It’s easier and more natural for them because there is a certain connection that they feel— they understand the need and are only too eager to give up themselves.”
Milk Matters creates a safe and nurturing environment for mothers to be themselves and embrace motherhood through breastfeeding. Milk Matters has grown and will continue to grow with the help of women like Sister Yel Adre, with the Barangay Health Workers, the sisters of Canossa Health and Social Center, and with the mothers who continuously heed to the call to become of service to others.
For more information about Milk Matters, please visit facebook.com/PLDMilkMatters
Part and parcel of the advocacy of the Sorority to promote and enhance maternal & child health, Milk Matters was established in 2014. With this purpose and having sustainability at its core, Milk Matters partners with communities from around the region. One of the partners in service is Canossa Health and Social Center in Tondo, Manila. Knowing the gaps in knowledge and current practices is important in understanding the needs of the community. By hearing their voices and acknowledging the need for change, Milk Matters conducts public health lectures on exclusive breastfeeding, proper latch-on and breastfeeding positions, and common problems encountered during the lactation period.
“Natutuwa ako sa pag-demo ninyo kasi awareness yun sa mga nanay. Yung iba kasi nahihiya mag breastfeeding kasi ayaw nila mag labas ng ganun sa labas at sa trabaho, pero kapag nakikita nila kailangan pahalagahan ang breastmilk, itutuloy na nila.”
By taking the time to teach the mothers within Canossa, a chain reaction of change in the practices and attitudes of the community of Tondo is created. Ma’am Edna shares that the women who participate in the lectures and listen to the BHWs are able to become positive influences to the mothers and expectant mothers within the community.
“Nakikita nila benepisyo sa isa’t-isa at sa mga bata kaya nagkakaroon ng impluwensya sa iba’t-ibang mga nanay sa komunidad.”
Ounces to Liters
In efforts to achieve sustainability, Milk Matters, in partnership with Canossa Health and Social Center, was able to establish community-based milk storage facilities back in 2014 complete with refrigerators, milk pumps, and sterilizers. The chain reaction of change is not only within the confines of the community but it reaches beyond. Through the milk storage facilities in Canossa, mothers from Tondo are given an opportunity to share the milk they have. Donated milk is brought to PGH for pasteurization, a portion of which will go to the community for the mothers and babies in need and the rest are donated to PGH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Through the efforts of Ma’am Edna, the BHWs in the area, the community doctors, and the members of Canossa Health and Social Center, mothers are given the right to know about their health.
From ounces to liters, the milk that each mom is able to provide, supplies life to babies and gives them a fighting chance for tomorrow. As a mother herself, Ma’am Edna understands the struggles of breastfeeding and the toll it can take on the mother. She shares that she and the sisters of Canossa provide snacks for the moms who donate.
“Naiintindihan ko sila kasi nanay rin ako. Yung maliliit na bagay na pakainin mo sila pagkatapos magdonate, importante kasi yun yung gusto ng mga nanay-- na naiintindihan mo yung pinagdadaanan nila.”
Even with the collective efforts of the sorority, the health center, and the community, problems cannot be avoided. Despite providing the families with the information they need to have a successful breastfeeding journey, personal and financial limitations still exist. Ma’am Edna shares the struggles of the mothers within the community in terms of storage and balancing work.
“Kahit turuan natin sila sa exclusive breastfeeding at sabihan sila na paabutin ng 6 months, hindi pa rin nila ito nagagawa. Ang problema ay pag nagtratrabaho na sila. Pero kahit turuan sila sa pag-express ng gatas, pagdating mo naman sa bahay nila, wala naman mapaglalagyan na refrigerator… Pero hindi hindrance ang pagtratrabaho-- yun ang kailangan namin palakasin pa. Kahit sa simpleng cooler muna na may yelo habang na sa trabaho, makakastore ka na ng gatas.”
In spite of the problems being faced by Ma’am Edna, the BHWs, and the sisters of Canossa Health and Social Center in Tondo, Manila, they make the conscious decision everyday to continue becoming public servants for the Filipino people. It’s time to recognize and join women like Ma’am Edna and the women of Canossa in the fight towards women and community empowerment.
For more information about Milk Matters, please visit our Facebook page (facebook.com/PLDMilkMatters)
Breast milk is an important source of nutrition in a newborn, a growing infant, and most especially in preterm babies. The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), being a tertiary hospital, opens its arms to every Filipino in need — but with this comes an increase in the demand in the workforce and in supplies. One of the objectives of Milk Matters is to develop and maintain a stable source of breastmilk for the growing needs of the patients confined at the PGH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). With this, Milk Matters conducts regular milk drives and milk pick-ups in and around the Metro. Milk is stored and delivered to PGH where it is tested, pasteurized, and stored in the PGH Milk Bank. As of March 2019, Milk Matters has helped collect around 322.559 L of breastmilk from donations of moms around Metro Manila in a span of five years — all for the benefit of the mothers and babies in the PGH NICU.
Making it Possible
Before touching the lives of hundreds of babies, the milk donated finds its way to the hands of the nurses at the PGH Milk Bank. One of the people that continue to make Milk Matters a success is Nurse Fe A. Basinang. Ma’am Fe has been an avid advocate for exclusive breastfeeding especially during her time as a nurse in PGH. She has been with Milk Matters since its conception in 2014 and continues to serve the underserved to this day. She has been with PGH for nearly 34 years, serving 7 years and 5 months in the PGH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
As someone in the front lines of our healthcare system, Ma’am Fe sees the discrepancies in the supply and demand for breast milk. Over the years, together with Milk Matters and other donations, the PGH Milk Bank has helped over thousands of preterm and sick babies and mothers who cannot supply enough breast milk for their babies. Ma’am Fe and the PGH NICU team, prepare the milk by pasteurization with pre- and post- culture to ensure the best quality milk or “liquid gold,” as they say. Ma’am Fe describes to us the process in which donated breastmilk finds its way to the babies in PGH. She explains that the milk is given to the babies via cup feeding to prevent nipple confusion. The process is not as easy as it sounds — Ma’am Fe explains that there are a lot of problems that can be encountered, especially with the patients. She describes that there can be difficult babies to help grow because of multiple co-morbidities and mothers that have a difficulty with their own supply of milk. But despite the problems they face, there will always be good days:
“Once nakikita ko na silang dumedede, lumulunok ng gatas, nag cup feeding, natutuwa ako kasi life yan eh, buhay na talaga sila — kaya tulungan na lang natin."
Maam Fe would recall the preterm babies who grow up strong with the help of the donated breastmilk and how beautiful it is to see them go home with a strong grip, good suck, and smile on their face. She also adds that the donated breast milk also helps mothers with twins, triplets, and even quadruplets supply their babies with enough milk to thrive.
“Napakamalaking bagay ang milk na nabibigay ninyo, lalo na kapag nakikita namin yung mga baby na gumagaling na, lalo na sa [babies sa] Kangaroo Mother Care.”
Beyond the Hospital
The whole PGH NICU team works hard to take the time to educate the mothers on breastfeeding basics and on lactation techniques to ensure that even after their stay in PGH, they may continue their breastfeeding journeys and become examples to others. Without the mothers that donate and the nurses at the PGH NICU, most especially Ma’am Fe, Milk Matters would not be the success it is today. Ma’am Fe is grateful for the partnership that Milk Matters has created with PGH NICU because with it, there is a constant supply of milk.
“Sana continuous yung pagbigay ninyo samin dahil kailangang-kailangan namin yun. Iba rin talaga yung may partnership kayo… Napakalaking tulong talaga yung naibibigay ng Milk Matters.”
Ma’am Fe encourages mothers to donate their breast milk if they can because there will always be a baby and a mother in need. As long as there are women like Ma’am Fe, who strive to continue to promote exclusive breastfeeding even at the dire of situations, breastmilk will always find its way to the Filipino child.
To find out how to donate milk, please visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PLDMilkMatters).
“My first breastfeeding experience was not an easy journey but I chose to be successful in giving the best for my child.”
Mommy Bhing shares what a lot of mothers have struggled with during breastfeeding – supply vs demand. “My supply was not enough to meet my baby's demand,” Mommy Bhing shares. However, she didn’t let this nor her job stop her from pursuing exclusive breastfeeding— “I needed to wake up in the middle of the night just to pump so I can leave her breastmilk that she can take enough for the day before going to the office.” She was determined to balance being a professional with her desire to exclusively breastfeed — she was successful with her first born, Anya, and she continues to be successful for baby Aira.
Despite all the problems she has faced with her breastfeeding journey, she was able to push through with determination and love for her daughter. So when asked if she would have done anything differently when she had first started breastfeeding, she said she wouldn’t change a thing. Mommy Bhing brings everything that she has learned to her on-going breastfeeding journey with her second baby and shares her story to other mothers having struggles with breastfeeding.
From a fortified immunity, to more savings, and to being environmental-friendly, Mommy Bhing uses her experience with both her daughters as a platform for advocating breastfeeding to relatives and friends. But most of all, she promotes breastfeeding because of the love she and her daughters share, it is a love every mother should experience. “It’s true that breastmilk is really best for babies. I am more close to my 1st born because i chose to breastfed her. I want all mothers to know the benefits of breastfeeding as i have seen it with my first born.”
"It’s true that breastmilk is really best for babies."
Mommy Bhing wants mothers like her and soon to be moms to know the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding but she does not why away from the common problems and misconceptions that others may have. “I want all mothers to know that it is not true that there are some moms who are not blessed with enough liquid gold and there are some who are blessed. It’s not something given to you instantly, it’s something you have to work on.” She believes it is important to consult doctors and fellow moms regarding exclusive breastfeeding. By getting professional opinion and knowing the experience of others, families are able to make informed decisions and clear up misconceptions.
"It provides us opportunities to grow and develop together."
Two years into her training in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in PGH, mommy Chekai describes her breastfeeding journey as one of “affirmation”. “People have been listing down the benefits of breastfeeding, both to the child and the mother, but having to experience it yourself is different.” She fondly recalls an incident where Ethan (and everybody else around) suffered from an upper respiratory tract infection, and she continued to breastfeed him. She believes that breastfeeding and the antibodies she passed onto him “…played a great part in making him feel better and shortening the duration of his illness.” Being a pediatrician, she thought she was ready to face the struggles of breastfeeding but she eventually learned that it was definitely a lot different from knowing the theory and going through it herself. She says, “…I soon realized that knowing everything in theory, proper latching, proper positioning, etc., is very very different from having to go through it yourself. The struggle and the pain were real.”
When asked how she overcame her struggles, she shares that her loving and supportive husband made a whole lot of difference in her breastfeeding journey. She recalls, “having someone to just hold you while you’re crying and tell you that you’re doing a great job gave me strength, and made me feel that my milk was enough, that I was enough.”
To this day, Mommy Chekai is back in training, which means missing opportunities to bond with Ethan, to breastfeed and directly latch but according to her “it does not mean that he has to miss drinking breast milk entirely.” She shares her practices
“During clinics, despite the long list and the number of patients that we see everyday, I make sure that I have time to pump my precious milk for him in between assessments. It was hard at first and I struggled with clogged ducts and decreased milk supply, but I soon got the hang of pumping. I found way to manage my time, looking for areas and opportunities to pump and fit pumping into my daily schedule. I even pump inside the car (taking into consideration safety precautions of course!) while I’m in transit to and from work.”
When asked what she would do anything differently from when she first started breastfeeding, she says that she “would probably have asked help from fellow Mommas earlier.” She stresses the importance of a support system, or “a good network of friends and family”, through her breastfeeding journey and success. “Ever since I gave birth to Ethan and started breastfeeding, I became more connected to old high school and college friends, colleagues and even some of my patients who have gone through or are going through the same journey as I am.” Her network shares breastfeeding tips, tricks and techniques like “where to get the yummy lactation goodies, which nursing bras are more comfortable, which nursing clothes are convenient and easy to use, and which malls and restaurants have baby-friendly and nursing-friendly areas”. These she dotingly calls mundane things but are surely treasures of all breastfeeding mommies alike. ‘Having a strong support group - friends and family - who you can talk to about your woes and concerns (no matter how simple or irrelevant you think they might be) is essential to breastfeeding success.”
Mommy Chekai places an importance in the contribution of society in the success of breastfeeding moms. “Breastfeeding is not a journey that a mother should embark on alone. Workplaces, churches, restaurants and other places of recreation such as malls should provide mothers a place where they can breastfeed comfortably. And even if a mother decides to breastfeed in public, they should not be reprimanded or discouraged to do so.” She advocates that breastfeeding should be normalized and that individuals in our society should “refrain from body shaming or putting malice into a mother’s act of offering her breast to feed her baby, even in public.”
When asked what advise she would give to new moms, and moms-to-be who are considering breastfeeding, she says “…do not be afraid. It will be challenging at first, but everything is worth it once you realize the benefits it has for you and your child. Not to mention the incomparable feeling of fulfillment and joy you will have as a bonus!” She also adds a positive message to mommies like her who are already breastfeeding and advocating breastfeeding, “[to] just enjoy the ride and be happy! A happy mom produces more milk. So learn to enjoy, and not sweat the small stuff. Smile constantly; it brings joy not only to you but also to your baby.”
"You are enough."
In line with our objective to empower Filipino mothers to breastfeed, Milk Matters presents Express Yourself, an online movement that sheds light on the breastfeeding experiences of Filipino mothers, families, doctors, nurses, and other members of society. Our vision is to inspire other mothers to continue breastfeeding through these stories.