This is the second of three parts.  You can read Part 1 here.  This is a guest post written by Dr. Lei who participated in all the aspects of the breastfeeding mission.  Dr. Lei also runs an online store, Caleb’s Closet and shares her thoughts in her blog, Lei’s Anatomy.

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3. Substantial amounts of human milk can be collected and stored for the above babies.

We were able to collect 67 liters of milk in less than 2 weeks. (Having talked with Velvet, they actually came up with 100 liters in a single day, involving just one barangay!!). Substantial amounts of human milk can be collected and preserved properly.

After UNICEF’s call for milk donations went out to our Team UnangYakap, the response was crazy. In a matter of 24 hours, we helped mobilize private individuals (e.g. Maricel Cua of Medela Moms, Davao-based childbirth educator/advocate Alex Hao, blogger/advocate/lawyer Jenny Ong and mother support groups at the BangkoSentralngPilipinas etc,), the Lactation Units of The Medical City, St. Luke’s Global Hospital (through the leadership of Dr. Cristina Bernardo, IBCLC and Breastfeeding Committee Head of the Philippine Pediatric Society), and the 3 Human Milk Banks in NCR (Fabella, PCMC and the UP-PGH through the coordination of Dr .Fay de Ocampo, kangaroo mother care expert and Team UnangYakap).

Two milk-letting activities were organized independently – one in St. Luke’s Global through Ms. Joyce Martinez (Lactation Unit Manager) in partnership with the Nutrition Office of Muntinlupa City and another one in Cagayan de Oro, aptly called Pay-It-Forward through the efforts of Mommy Bright Side and Dr. JessamineSareno (Team UnangYakap and technical expert for the National Guidelines on Human Milk Banking).

Milk-letting activity at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City, Lactation Unit, in cooperation with the Muntinlupa City Nutrition Office.  Photo from Ms. Joyce Martinez, Lactation Unit Manager

The milk culled from Cagayan de Oro was flown-in to Manila for pasteurization in UP-PGH by no less than Dr. Maria Assuncion Silvestre and Dr. Cynthia Tan (technical expert for the Clinical Practice Guidelines for Intrapartum and Immediate Postpartum Care, Philippine Obstetric and Gynecologic Society and Team UnangYakap co-convenor). It was airlifted for free through the commitment of Ms. Carmen Sarmiento, Executive Director of the PAL Foundation as coordinated by Dr. Ma. Lourdes Imperial, neonatologist and Team UnangYakap co-convenor. We certainly hope for PAL’s assistance in handling urgent and precious breast milk cargo on a regular basis during national crisis.

Human Milk from Cagayan de Oro mothers flown-in to Manila for pasteurization.
Photo from Dr. Jessamine Sareno

The early donations, the transport, and the mobilization were largely volunteer-driven. (Take note, everything happened during the hectic holiday season). Meanwhile, the Nutrition Cluster at the Regional DOH Office in Davao was coordinating with the DOH Family Health Office and the Health Emergency Management Staff (HEMS).

These “reactive” milk drives and occasional independent milk letting activities had quite high visibility. Equally laudable are the existing donor milk drives that are in place that ensure that hospitals, especially neonatal ICUs of regular human milk supply. Babies in difficult circumstances need human milk – it is optimal for healing and for protection. Notable are the Alay Gatas Foundation of the PCMC and Operation Foster Milk of the UP-PGH Lactation Unit and Human Milk Bank. (The Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital has a large internal source of donor milk because of the large number of mothers who deliver there). It is these donor milk drives that should be constantly supported so as to develop “stockpiles” that can be readily mobilized.

I remember how Atty. Jenny Ong recounted that one mother, knowing that we have an ongoing milk drive, approached and practically begged for milk for her own baby who is very sick. That was heart breaking. Dr. Fay de Ocampo, a breastfeeding-friendly neonatologist trained in UP-PGH pointed out how they would often encounter milk shortage for the very sick babies in the NICU despite the Human Milk Bank being in place. As an intern in PGH, I remember how I had to “beg” for breast milk from some mothers in the OB-Gyn ward for my small sick patient.

We hope the Post-Pablo drive was able to generate awareness among people, especially the mothers, that their excess milk can help save lives – whether in times of national crisis or not. Below are the institutions where they can make regular donations.

  • UP-PGH Human Milk Bank M-Th, 8-4pm and Fri-Sun, 8-12 noon contact: 554 8400 loc 3415/3417/3418 or 09187691662 contact person Ms. Tina or Ms. Grace 
  • Philippine Children’s Medical Center Human Milk Bank, M-F, 8-5pm 9246601 local 288, contact Ms. Rose 
  • Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital Human Milk Bank, M-F, 8-5pm, 7345561-65 local 156, contact Ms. Linda 

Part 3 here.
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About the Author:
Dr. Lei Camiling-Alfonso graduated from UP Diliman, B.S. Molecular Biology (cum laude) before pursuing medicine at the UP-Philippine General Hospital. Fresh out of medical school, she served a far-flung island group in Palawan as a DOH Doctor to the Barrio until a sensitive pregnancy forced her to return to Manila. Her personal encounters with our public health system as well as her own difficulties as a breastfeeding mother prompted her involvement with Unang Yakap (Essential Intrapartum and Newborn Care), a WHO initiative for evidence-based labor/delivery and newborn care practices, for almost a year now. She is currently trying to pursue a career in the local field of Breastfeeding Medicine and would probably go into Obstetrics as a back-up plan. She runs an e-commerce site that promotes mindful parenting. Her son Caleb is still breastfeeding past 2 years of age.

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