BREASTFEEDING one's baby is a given expectation. But sharing one's breastmilk to help save a newborn or support the mother who has just given birth has not been the practice albeit noble.
A handful of breastfeeding mothers, who mostly attended chilbirth preparation course (Lamaze) or prenatal yoga at The Pod of Alex Hao, share a common passion to donate their breastmilk for babies in need.
Marie Fabian-Lo, in an interview during a regular Thursday playgroup at The Pod, said they formed the Golden Milk Davao in July but it has recently evolved as Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB)-Davao City after she was contacted by Jenny Ong of HM4HB Philippines.
Mommy Marie then created the community page HM4HB-Davao City Philippines on Facebook that has received 130 likes as of Saturday presstime. Of these 130, however, only 20 mommies are part of the core group that has been involved in the informed milk-sharing network and are active in donating breastmilk.
"This page was created for mothers who have extra frozen breastmilk to share and to all concerned (mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, etc.) who need frozen breastmilk donations for their beloved babies," the page said.
As part of the HM4HB Global Network, HM4HB Davao, is also committed to promote the nourishment of babies and children with human milk, foster community between local families who have chosen to share breastmilk.
HM4HB is built on the principle of informed choice.
"We trust, honor and value the autonomy of families and we assert they are capable of weighing the benefits and risks of milksharing in order to make choices that are best for them," HM4HB page said.
In celebration of the International Breastfeeding Week, HM4HB Davao held a meet-up that was attended by 31 mothers who brought with them their children and husbands on August 3 at Don Beppe Pizza and Pasta at The Peak of Gaisano Mall of Davao.
The meet-up has encouraged the moms to play an active role in the community through milk-sharing.
Marie, however, stressed that HM4HB Davao is not exclusive to milk-sharing as they also welcome those who need counseling on breastfeeding and other maternal and parenting concerns.
"Aside from our Facebook page, those interested may also join our playgroup every Thursday at The Pod. We just talk about anything during the playgroup. It's a regular activity for us just to hang out and learn from each other,"she said.
The playgroup is set from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays.
Alex Hao, who owns The Pod, said other HM4HB Davao members have also attended the Arugaan Breastfeeding Peer Counselling Training on October 26, 2012 that was organized by Mommy Sense.
She said, "I am embarrassed and it's assuming to say that I influence these well-educated and dedicated women. They are already effective and wanting to learn more before I met them through childbirth class or some other mommy activities. I think to say that I influenced them is already a stretch. I think we attract like-minded people because of how we spend our time, allocate our resources and count our blessings."
Keryl Lee Tan, who nurses eight-month-old Kaley, said that she started donating milk when her baby was only three months old.
"May humihingi ng breastmilk ko for a triplets. Breastmilk is something you can't buy and I have a lot of it. So everyday during those times, I donated three to four ounce for them," Mommy Keryl said.
She stores her frozen breastmilk on a chest-type refrigerator so she can donate whenever there is a need. She has been one of the biggest donors of breastmilk in the group along with Mommy Marie and Ena Chong-Tai, mom of four-month-old baby Hailey, among others.
Keryl said, "I was advised to work on our second baby after a year so I decided to store milk for Hailey but eventually may nangangailangan kaya binibigay ko na rin ang mga naipon kong breastmilk."
Abegail Alejandro, mother of Penelope, said she donated her breastmilk at the Philippine General Hospital the last time she went to Manila.
Marie, for her part, said she decided to pump breastmilk to donate for other babies since she resolved to exclusively breastfeed her baby.
Mommy Marie said HM4HB Davao has been donating breastmilk for babies who are premature, for those whose moms are sick after giving birth or for moms who are still establishing their milk.
Their group has been helping Khristine Sybil Jumawan Tan who gave birth to her seven-month-old baby Kirsten Andrea at their family's bathroom. Baby Andrea was just caught by her grandmother's hands while the umbilical cord was cut my her mother's nurse-cousin. Sybil and Andrea were then rushed to the hospital by 911.
Sybil requested for breastmilk donations from HM4HB Davao, posting on their Facebook page: "I'm Mommy Sybil. My baby Andrea needs breastmilk because my milk is not enough for my baby pa."
HM4HB Davao was quick to respond as the group sought donors from their network of breastfeeding mothers. Baby Andrea is still at the Pedia Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Davao Medical School Foundation Hospital but Mommy Sybil is more than grateful for the help that they've been getting from donor mommies.
The community page has been receiving other milk requests including the one for Baby Sofia Basalan Lim. She has already received from donors four weeks ago but is needing more as she was also born premature.
Her mom was in a coma after giving birth then later passed away. Baby Sofia, who is under the care of her grandmother Juliet Lim, now weighs two pounds. Breastmilk donors may drop their stash at Davao Doctor's Hospital Pedia ICU and put Baby Sofia's name on their donated breastmilk bags.
Another request received was for a full-term baby boy born on July 30 and who has been operated twice due to gastroschisis, a "birth defect in which an infant's intestines stick out of the body through a defect on one side of the umbilical cord".
Mommy Khryzel is nursing the baby but her breastmilk is not yet enough so breastmilk donors are encouraged to spare milk from their stash and drop their milk donation to MDMRCI-Breastfeding Room. Please put the baby's name: Prince George Miguel B. Gonzales or contact Lola Gigi at mobile number (0932) 856-7378.
Mommy Marie, meanwhile, said they are also regular donors to a baby in Manila whose celebrity mom was operated due to cancer breast tissues and whose milk ducts no longer function.
"I brought to Manila 40 bags of frozen breastmilk with three to four once each. We all pooled our stored breastmilk together to produce 40 bags. The baby was advised to take only breastmilk for one year so we committed to be regular donors," Marie said.
Mommies of HM4HB-Davao share one thing in common: they all breastfeed their babies.
Julie Lapaz, mother of one-year-old Damiel said, she had decided to exclusively breastfeed her baby from the very start she learned she was pregnant.
"My mother breastfed the three of us. I was influenced by my mom. I delivered through the CS (Caesarean) section and breastfeeding has helped me recover faster as my uterus contracts whenever I nurse my baby. I was back to my old jeans within a month," Mommy Julie said.
She also said that Damiel never had a fever of sorts only colds or cough that usually lasts a few days.
Julie added, "Breasteeding is a lot of work and sacrifices but it's the best for my baby."
Mommy Marie, who mixed-fed her first child, observed that their eldest was "masakitin" so she was bent on breastfeeding the second one exclusively.
Mommy Keryl said she made her own research about breastfeeding and since then was convinced about the many benefits it can giver her and her baby.
Mommy Ena said, "I feel great breastfeeding my baby because I'm giving her the best milk in the world."
Mommy Alex also breastfed her first, second and fourth children while the third one was formula-fed after she burned her arm.
"Hindi sustainable ang formula. Breastfeeding came easy to me, my biggest challenge was sore nipples lang. I did not even read a book about breastfeeding when I gave birth to my eldest. She was an easy baby. I grew to understand the value of breasteeding when nagkaroon na pagsubok with my third child," Mommy Alex shared.
Breastmilk is STILL the best for babies up to two years and beyond. HM4HB Davao, which believes that breastfeeding is a community effort, is taking the road less traveled to promote breastfeeding, inspire other mothers to do the same, and share their breastmilk for those in need.