Breastmilk still best for babies; formula distribution must be coordinated with gov't, says DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 07:48 PM | Updated as of Apr 23 2020 12:25 PM

An infant breastfeeds from his mother. File

MANILA — The Department of Health on Wednesday said local government units should assist families with infants needing milk, be it through facilitating formula milk donations or sourcing from milk banks, as the country grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Kung ang nanay hindi makapagpasuso ng anak, ang gatas mula sa milk bank ay ang pinakamainam na ibigay sa ating sanggol,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing

(If the mother cannot breastfeed, milk from a milk bank would be the best substitute for infants.)

Vergeire said there are 16 human milk banks operated by the DOH and LGUs in the National Capital Region alone. The Human Milk Bank website lists down the locations and contact details of the milk banks nationwide: https://hmb.ph/milkBankLocation.php.

The health official explained that the pasteurized milk stored by the banks are from local breast feeding support groups who undergo strict screening.

“Dahil mahigpit ang screening, garantisadong pong malinis, angkop at ligtas para sa mga sanggol ang pasteurized donor milk,” Vergeire said.

(Because the screening is strict, we’re sure that the pasteurized donor milk is clean, appropriate and safe for infants.)

Vergeire said LGUs should coordinate with local health and nutrition offices to access the milk banks and learn the proper way of transporting the pasteurized milk. 

She said families should not go there directly because of the enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. LGU should also deliver the milk to families, who must be properly instructed how to prepare it.

In a previous advisory, the World Health Organization has encouraged COVID-19 positive mothers to continue nursing their children if they are able, with proper sanitation and precautions. 

FORMULA MILK DONATIONS

“Dahil po isang public health emergency ang COVID-19, kinakailangan nating matiyak na alam ng ating mga local government na maaari silang mag-procure ng supply para sa non-breastfeeding families,” Vergeire said.

(Because COVID-19 is a public health emergency, local government units should know that they can procure supplies of formula milk for non-breastfeeding families.)

She said formula milk should not be given to random families to reduce waste and to ensure that it is only given to those in need.

Vergeire explained that the Philippine Milk Code prohibits advertising infant formula milk as a good substitute for breast milk.

“Sa huli, inirerekomenda pa rin natin ang exclusive breastfeeding para sa mga batang 0 hanggang 6 na buwang taong gulang sa kadahilanang malaki ang tulong ng breast milk sa immune system ng bata,” she said.

(We are recommending exclusive breastfeeding for children who are 0 to 6 months old because breast milk greatly improves the immune system of a child.)

She said children who are older than 6 months should be given breastmilk and regular nutritious food.

WHO said exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.

"Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment," WHO added.