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."
"It was my love for my baby that made me want to succeed in breastfeeding."
Dianne Pangilinan-Concepcion is a mother to one year old baby girl CC, one with a newfound advocacy for breastfeeding. Like most first-time mothers, Dianne initially struggled with nursing her daughter. However, with dedication and utmost love for her daughter, she was able to overcome her struggles and breastfeed successfully, giving her daughter the best gift a mother can offer.
"I discovered that breastfeeding allows you to bond with your baby while nurturing her."
Prior to entering the domain of motherhood, Dianne thought that lactation was done to merely satiate children’s appetites; it was only when she began to breastfeed that she discovered the emotional aspect of this practice. “I discovered that breastfeeding allows you to bond with your baby while nurturing her. I teach her the different parts of the body, I tickle her, and sing to her when I nurse her.” In the first few hours, Dianne observed with wonder how attached she and CC were to each other right after delivery, especially after nursing her for the first time. However, her first day of motherhood was not without difficulty, and the subsequent weeks that ensued proved to be even more taxing. For instance, she recalls how she was clueless as to how to even hold her baby while nursing on the first day. Dianne shares, “I had to consult a lactation nurse to teach me how to hold a baby while breastfeeding and how to understand the different hunger cues of my baby.” Moreover, the first few weeks at home with her baby girl proved to be quite stressful as CC settled into her new home, and as Dianne settled in to her new role. For her, the biggest struggle she faced during this adjustment period was finding the most comfortable latch-on position for her and her baby. For a time, this led to bleeding nipples and a feeling of discouragement.
"I pushed through because I want to be able to give my child breastmilk for as long as I can."
Despite the initial setbacks Dianne encountered in the first few weeks of motherhood, she was able to power through out of love for her daughter. “I realized that it was my love for my baby that made me want to succeed in breastfeeding. As someone who grew up sickly, I know that there are so many health benefits to breastfeeding. So even when it was too difficult, painful, or time-consuming for me, I pushed through because I want to be able to give my child breastmilk for as long as I can.” Eventually, through patience, perseverance, and love for her daughter, Dianne was able to learn how to detect hunger cues, latch properly, and nourish her baby without discomfort or pain.
Dianne urges new mothers to research on breastfeeding in preparation for lactation, and learn as much as they can about it even during pregnancy. She also encourages mothers to take advantage of the advent of technology and information, as information about lactation is abundant. “Watching YouTube videos also helped! It would have helped me practice proper latching, and could have saved me from bleeding nipples during the first few weeks.”
Above all, Dianne believes that a mother’s love is the most important driving factor in breastfeeding success. “It will never be easy. It will even drive you crazy, especially when your baby never stops latching during her growth spurt period. When you feel like giving up, try again! Remember why you wanted to breastfeed in the first place.” Dianne is indeed an inspiration to all first-time mothers.
A mother's love is the most important driving factor in breastfeeding success.
Tracy Paulino-Cuesta is a medical doctor fresh out of her Pediatrics residency at the Makati Medical Center, a wife to pilot Gino Cuesta, and a doting Supermom to two beautiful girls: Rina (4) and Gicca (9 months).
Despite the mental and physical demands of medical training, Tracy remains extremely family-centered and feels strongly about exclusively breastfeeding her two girls. “I want to normalize breastfeeding, even in public,” she says. “It’s a perfectly natural way to feed a baby, and I feed my babies anywhere and anytime. I don't need to look for breastfeeding places or do extraordinary things to cover up.”
“I feed my babies anywhere and anytime."
As is the case for many mothers, breastfeeding wasn’t always easy for Tracy. “My milk didn’t come until my girls were three days old,” she admits. “Rina was getting hungry and even had an episode of low blood sugar; I had to give in to giving glucose water.” Despite this setback, Tracy kept trying. She was determined to give her babies the benefits that only breast milk can offer. “I couldn’t just give up, and my milk finally came in at the third day. So, when it was Gicca’s turn, I knew not to put too much pressure on myself and not to get disheartened right away.”
The initial scarcity of milk wasn’t the only problem that Tracy had encountered in her breastfeeding journey. In addition to raising a family, Tracy also had other kids to look after: her patients. “It meant a lot of sleepless nights and sore breasts, especially since breastfed babies wake up more during the night to feed,” she shares. “I breastfed and pumped during Residency. I would pump every three hours—even while I was on duty.”
“I would pump every three hours – even while I was on duty”
Despite the bumps in the road, Tracy has never regretted her decision to exclusively breastfeed her girls. “I breastfed my eldest, Rina, for 14 months, and I’m still currently breastfeeding Gicca who is 9 months old,” she says proudly. “I, and everyone around me, have noticed how close my girls are to me. Rina is a mature and independent child, but she knows that she just needs to cuddle in my arms whenever she feels unwell or scared to feel better again.” Tracy is living testament to the unique mother-child bond formed during breastfeeding. She gushes, “There is not a feeling more amazing than seeing all the love in their eyes while they gaze up at me while breastfeeding.”
“There is not a feeling more amazing than seeing all the love in their eyes while they gaze up at me while breastfeeding.”
Tracy is passionate about sharing this love for breastfeeding with other mothers. She ends by saying, “Breastfeeding is physically demanding. Sometimes, it’s exhausting. You will be alone and awake in the wee hours of the morning feeding and rocking your baby to sleep. You will lose your privacy when you bare your body anytime your baby gets hungry. Yet, despite these difficulties, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your baby grow big and strong—knowing that you are providing the best and most perfect food for your baby.”
“You are providing the best and most perfect food for your baby.”
"With breastfeeding, I’m giving my child a part of myself each time. It’s something I can only give him.”
Mommy Valerie Cuyegkeng-Go opens up about her breastfeeding journey with her 7-month old baby, Quino – sharing their bonding experience, how to overcome difficulties, and how to deal with society’s misconceptions on top of her duties as a wife and working in PGH. As an advocate for breastfeeding and breastmilk, Mommy Val shares her thoughts on her journey.
She has been breast feeding her baby since birth despite being on-duty at the hospital. She shares that “...with breastfeeding, I’m giving my child a part of myself each time. It’s something I can only give him.” Coming from a medical background, Mommy Val knows what to give baby Quino during this critical time in his development. She shares that this has deepened their relationship and adds that “he knows his mama when he smells me and my milk, even if I’m always on duty!”
However, despite having a stronger bond between mother and child, Mommy Val has also experienced a lot of difficulties during her breastfeeding journey. She mentioned that, “everything about breastfeeding was difficult for me – from initiating the first latch and building milk supply, to getting engorged and mastitis when I went back to work, and to just being exhausted from it all.” But, she was able to push through all of that because of her child and the support from the people around her – “what helped me through it all, and is still helping me through it, is knowing that I’m giving my child the best form of nutrition and having a support group of breastfeeding mommies to share my woes and successes with.”
When asked if she would have done anything differently, Mommy Val said that “I would have wanted to stay at home longer, to really be able to directly latch my baby for the first two months – but it isn’t always an option for most working moms, especially those who are in medical school like me.” Even though, Mommy Val made an effort to manually express her breastmilk for use at home whenever she’s not around, “I had to bottle feed my child at 6 weeks when I went back to work and he got nipple confusion early on. He no longer latched on to me after that, but he’s still on a 100% breastmilk diet thanks to technology and breast pumps. He’s 7 months now and I’m still producing a lot of milk.” Because of her effort to manually express her breastmilk regularly, she has a large supply of breastmilk that she donates to moms in need.
Being able to be a part of Milk Matters, advocating exclusive breastfeeding, and working at PGH was not enough preparation for what breastfeeding would bring to her. “I realized that breastfeeding is not easy at all. It requires so much commitment, time, and effort. I never understood how hard it was until I was doing it myself,” Mommy Val shares.
For the 7 months Mommy Val has had on her breastfeeding journey, there are four things she would want to share to breastfeeding moms, to soon-to-be moms, and to society in general. “First, it should be clear that breastfeeding and breastmilk is really the best nutrition you can give your child.” As a medical doctor, she sees the importance and how critical it is to a child’s growth and development. She advocates giving breastmilk in all its forms – may it be from the direct latch or manually expressed.
“Second, there should be no judgment placed on any mom if she decides not to breastfeed. Like I said, it’s hard and everyone’s circumstance is different.” Being exposed to different cases at the hospital and encountering moms from different backgrounds, Mommy Val understands that each mom’s experience would vary and it should not be a reason for a negative stigma.
“Third, it’s difficult but doable, if you really want to breastfeed your child then you just have to persevere and keep trying. Lastly, happy Mommy is best for baby – and that trumps it all!” Despite all the difficutly she had, Mommy Val still advocates for breastfeeding and breastmilk. She understands that it will always require commitment, time, and effort but it is doable especially with the inspiration from her baby and with the support of the people around her.
"Iba talaga pag breastfed baby."
Mommy Eileen Goco-Dy opens up about her breastfeeding journey – sharing her bonding experience with her 13 month-old baby, overcoming difficulties, and dealing with society’s misconceptions.
Breastfeeding has definitely had an impact on her bonding experience with her baby, Dana Eliana. Mommy Eileen has been breastfeeding her since birth. She says that, “During times na hindi siya comfortable, distressed siya, or may comfort siyang hinahanap – si mommy talaga hanap. Sa 13 months, feeling ko yung bond namin dalawa, hindi kaya pantayan – kahit ng sa papa niya. Iba talaga kapag breastfed baby.”
Despite strengthening the bonding experience of Mommy Eileen and her baby, she still had her fair share of difficulties during breastfeeding. Altough milk supply was never a problem, she dealt with the pain during latching. She would experience lumps and blebs (milk plugs) on her breasts. She shared that she overcame the pain by performing hand expression to clear the ducts and prevent futher swelling.
When asked if she would have done anything differently when she first started breastfeeding, she said that “I wouldn’t change na direct latch kami, but I would probably invest in a pump. Why? Because I want to donate! For us [moms], thats our way of giving back.” Mommy Eileen recalls that she experienced a difficult pregnancy that led her to bed rest majority of the time, which is why even before she gave birth, she was sure that she was going to breastfeed her baby. “Paglabas pa lang, yung boobs ko namamaga na kaya sabi ng Pedia ko sobrang dami. If I started pumping early on, sana marami na akong na-donate,” she shares.
On misconceptions, Mommy Eileen believes that a common misconception would be, "[when people say], ‘Dapat maghanda ka na, dapat humingi ka na ng milk from other people kasi pag nanganak ka, wala kang milk. Dapat painomin mo [si baby] ng milk.’” She further says that is is a common misconception because “[moms] do have milk! Its just that hindi lang madami kasi they start out na sobrang liit ng stomach nila parang, calamansi lang. So for you to build up a supply, there needs to be a demand. The more na naglatch si baby, the more na dadami ang supply.”
Another common misconception that Mommy Eileen shares with us is about the reliance on supplements. “Though it helps, moms should definitely not be dependent and hoping that if they take all of [the supplements], it will dramatically increase the supply. It really takes determination and perseverance to increase your supply, [which includes] latching and regligious pumping every 2-3 hours.”
With all her experiences during breastfeeding, dealing with the difficulties, and handling the misconceptions of society, Mommy Eileen has two main points she wants to share with society.
To the moms that are breastfeeding, “there’s [a] very little percentage of moms na walang milk. Everyone has milk. God designed our bodies para magsupply ng milk sa anak natin. So if I were to say that, never doubt the design. Never doubt that your body can give milk to your baby. That’s the way it was built. Even way before formula milk was made, it was breastfeeding – wala naman iba. Never doubt na wala akong mabibigay or kulang yan.
To society in general about breastfeeding itself, “hindi dapat siya ikahiya, hindi dapat siya itreat na bastos or something na ‘ano ba yan nagbrebreast feed, di marunong magtago ng dede’. Yung boobs, in the mind na lang yan, eventually society made it bastos – a sexual image. It was never meant for that naman eh, it was meant for a women to bear a child, give birth, and grow your child.”
She also adds the importance of family support, “if your husband thinks na bastos or nakakahiya mag breast feed ka in public, that automatically degrades you as a woman. Dapat talaga if its an advocacy or a shared awareness, dapat di lang siya sa moms but to the family and the people surrounding the mom to breastfeed.”
Sharing her story, Mommy Eileen shows that moms are not alone in their breastfeeding journey, that they should believe in themselves to provide for their babies, and that support from family and society are important to ending the stigma against public breastfeeding.
"Never doubt that your body can give milk to your baby."
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.