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).
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.