For the longest time, broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez has been sending flowers to her mom friends for Mother's Day. This year, it was the first time she celebrated the occasion as a mom herself to twins, Pepe and Pilar, who just turned 3 months old on Mother's Day.
In milk banks here in the Philippines, donated breast milk is expensive enough as it is, but it was even more costly in the U.S. with two growing babies.
"Sa Pittsburgh, medyo nalumpo ako ro'n," Korina said in an exclusive interview with Pep.ph. "Ang mahal! But I insist that the babies will have breast milk. Napapraning ako sa sakit," she explained. (Among the many benefits of breast milk is antibodies that help protect babies from illnesses, especially during the first few months.)
When she and and husband Mar Roxas finally brought Pepe and Pilar home, she worried it would be more challenging to provide them with the precious liquid gold. Apart from its high cost, milk banks in hospitals in the country reserve the donated breast milk to premature babies who need them the most.
"Ayoko namang kumuha sa hospital dahil dino-donate iyan para sa mga premature [babies]," Korina said. "Ayoko namang makiagaw ro'n," she explained. "I don't want to take that away from the needy," she wrote on Instagram.
The first-time mom turned to her personal network for help, asking for breast milk donation from her friends or daughters of her barkadas who have babies and can spare any amount of breast milk
"Imagine, tatlong buwan na, araw-araw kang nanglilimos. Pine-pressure ako ng mga nurse ko. 'Ma'am, may gatas pa po tayo?' Saan ako kukuha ng gatas ngayon?" Korina shared.
But so far, so good. Pepe and Pilar have not run out of supply, thanks to generous donor moms.
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"Look at our freezer full of donated breast milk from relatives and friends for Pepe and Pilar. Thank you. Because of you my kids will grow to have a much stronger immune system," the first-time mom wrote as a caption for her twins breast milk stash on Instagram. "To my donors, you know who you are. You are heroes," she added.
Korina recently disclosed that one of the key persons in her breast milk donor network is Beng Feliciano of The Parenting Emporium who sent 150 ounces when she was desperate for supply one time.
The mom of two also has a system in place, so she doesn't abuse her donor's generosity. "May matrix ako. Ay, kailan ko huling nahingan ''to? Matagal na, mag-rerequest ako ulit," the mom of two shared.
One of her staff nurses is also a breastfeeding mom, so she pumps breast milk and gives a few ounces to Pepe and Pilar. Her secretary is due to give birth any time soon, and Korina has started supplying her with malunggay supplements to support her breastfeeding journey.
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The first-time mom plans to give her children breast milk until their second birthday. "If I can, let's see," an optimisitc Korina said. She also dreams of setting up a private breast milk center in the country, one with similar operations of the milk bank in Pittsburgh that provided Pepe and Pilar liquid gold while they were in the U.S.