Lang-ay for Breast Milk Awaits Lactating Working Mothers

A breast milk bank at the heart of the central business district in Baguio City is replicating an old Igorot tradition of sharing milk among lactating mothers.

BY LYN V. RAMO
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – A breast milk bank at the heart of the central business district here is replicating an old Igorot tradition of sharing milk among lactating mothers.

There is little awareness of its benefits, however, as shown by the number of mothers who avail of its services.

Intended to benefit both lactating mothers and those who need the best food for their newborns, the breast-milk bank along Assumption Road, here is a project of the Soroptimist International (SI) of Hope Baguio.

SI of Hope also has a related project, Hub of Hope, which is a place where working mothers could leave their infants and toddlers while they attend to their work.

Health professionals and women’s groups here advise six months of exclusive breastfeeding for newborn babies for them to reach the maximum potentials for growth. This, they said, will also bring economic and social benefits to parents.

In a media forum November 6 at the Art Haven along Assumption Road where guests included children’s advocates, discussions focused on breastfeeding and its benefits to both mother and child.

Cultural revival was also emphasized as advocates of women and children took turns encouraging indigent working mothers to avail of the benefits the Hub of Hope offers them.

The hub could accommodate 15 babies at any given time and is considered under-utilized at present, Hub of Hope project chair Procyon Rina Casareo said.

No substitute for a mother’s milk

“The idea of a breast-milk bank rests on the need to give the infant the best food, which is breast milk during the first six months of life,” said Dr. Micaela Defiesta, a family physician and currently the regional director of the National Nutrition Council. She is also a Soroptimist.

Lawyer Edith Datuin, SI of Hope president, said the breast-milk bank is intended for minimum wage-earner lactating mothers who work in the central business district. She said a working mother may express her milk at the milk bank either manually, with a manual breast pump; or with the electric milk expresser.

“If they are lactating, they may leave their babies free of charge, but if they are not they give the center a minimal fee,” said Datuin.

Lactating mothers may have their milk expressed, refrigerated and later taken for use in the home while the mothers are at work.

At present, the breast-milk bank has at least seven regular breast-milk donors.

Reviving the lang-ay in the city

According to Defiesta, there are no wet nurses in the Hub of Hope, but because mothers have bonded through their common experience of rearing babies, there have been unwritten agreements where a mother of another child would breastfeed a hungry infant while the biological mother is still at work.

She said, through the breast-milk bank, the traditional “lang-ay” (sharing) for breast milk is reintroduced.

Breast milk stored in the bank may also be given to a baby in the hub with the prior consent of the biological parent.

“For those availing of bank milk, however, there is no way to know from whom the milk came from,” said Casareo, who is the president-elect of SI of Hope Baguio.

Fostering a culture of caring and sharing

Casareo said licensed nurses provide nursing care while the mothers are away. Volunteers assist in expressing breast milk and feeding the infants.

Defiesta said the center feeds babies with cups, instead of infant bottles, to prevent nipple confusion among the infants.

Defiesta emphasized the need for mothers to breastfeed or express their milk regularly to encourage milk production.

Datuin cited the case of a lactating mother who keeps donating her excess milk while breast-feeding her newborn in the workplace. “All we get is the excess milk, while she feeds her child,” she said.

“Once the breasts are left emptied, milk production would eventually stop,” Defiesta warned, as she encouraged mothers to give only breast milk in the first six moths. “After the sixth month, start introducing other foods,” she said, adding breastfeeding could however continue until the infant’s second birthday.

In Baguio City, only a few business establishments have set up a breast-feeding unit, according to Defiesta, citing a call center and a giant mall as among those who have been actively encouraging employees to breast-feed by setting up mother-and-infant friendly facilities. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com

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