The Philippine Milk Code strictly bans formula milk at any hospital, and it is a policy that extends to the use of pacifiers, feeding bottles and other non-breastfeeding-friendly paraphernalia on hospital premises. At a hospital like The Medical City (TMC), for example, where there is a strict breastfeeding policy, feeding bottles are not allowed on maternity floors.
If the mother cannot breastfeed, Dr. Ma. Cristina S. Tuazon, a pediatrician from TMC, says, “Milk supplements, whether expressed mother’s milk, donor milk, or even formula is given via cup feeding, dropper, or syringe.”
This is in line with the recommendations by the country's Department of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). Both prefer direct breastfeeding, cup-feeding the baby with expressed breast milk, and feeding breast milk provided by a wet nurse or the milk bank before resorting to bottle-feeding.
In one of the discussions on our Smart Parenting Village Facebook group, several moms shared how they were caught by surprise that the policy meant a ban on bottles (there was even confiscation of feeding bottles) even though you were there during your child's check-up. And that was what happened to Chen Cornelio, a mom of two kids, Eli, 7, and Lara, 5 months old.
Chen was with Lara for her fourth well-baby check-up at a maternity hospital. In their previous visits, no one told Chen to stop bottle feeding. But that day, the nurse approached Chen's yaya and asked her to bottle-feed Lara in the emergency room. Lara was not feeding, though; the bottle was still in the bag when the nurse approached the yaya. The nurse didn't ask if the bottle had a formula or breast milk.
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"May order daw ang DOH (Department of Health) na bawal ang bottle feeding sa hospital," Chen recalled when she asked what the problem was. The nurse also told them to cover Lara's baby book, which was from her pediatrician. (The baby book likely had a formula milk branding that should not be seen in the hospital.)
Before they could go to the ER to bottle-feed, Lara's name was called to the pediatrician's clinic. The nurse informed the doctor about the incident. "Yung doctor sinabihan din ako na kung may biglang lumapit at tanungin kami, ang isagot ko daw breastfeeding kami," Chen added.
The experience prompted Chen, who does mixed feeding, to vent on her social media how the policy ban made her feel ashamed.
"Yung kailangan namin magtago kasi nakabote ang ibinibigay ko sa anak kong gutom? Nakakahiya po ba? So pag nakabote, ano ang tingin ninyo sa amin?" Chen ranted on social media. "Kahit sabihin niyong sa ospital lang naman, parang di pa din yata makatarungan. So every month magtatago kami sa ER para magpadede?" she wrote in disbelief.
"Tingin nyo ba bigla ko na lang pinili ang mag-formula dahil gusto ko lang? Alam ba nila na lahat ng pwedeng magpalakas ng supply ko eh ginawa, ikinain, at ininum ko na? Namili ako ng kung anu-anung supplements, palaging may dahon ng malunggay sa pagkain ko."
The mom of two acknowledged that breast milk is best and expressed her support for moms who breastfeed in public. "Kung kaya niyo mag breastfeeding, GO! Napakaswerte niyo kasi liquid gold yan eh," Chen said in her private post. "Sa mga katulad kong hindi pinalad, kaya naman natin bumili ng formula. Wag natin gutumin and mga anak natin," Chen said. "Anak ko, katawan ko, ako ang masusunod," she said, adding the hashtags #yestobreastfeeding, #yestobottlefeeding, #fedisbest, and #notomommyshaming.
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"I heard about the policy, may ilang signs din sa hospital," Chen told SmartParenting.com.ph when we asked if she was aware of the ban on feeding bottles. "Maayos naman ang pagkakasabi ng nurse and pedia sa amin. Parang ayaw lang nila na masita sila. They are just following orders. I get that," she explained. "Pero kahit anong ayos ang pagkakasabi, I can't help but get hurt. Parang nakakahiya ang ginagawa namin."
Chen shared with Smart Parenting that she was so ready to breastfeed her firstborn. She nursed him exclusively for five days since his birth. But on the night they brought him home, Eli's temperature spiked, so they immediately went back to the hospital.
"Dehydrated na siya kasi wala palang siyang nakukuhang milk sa 'kin," Chen said. Eli had to stay for more than a week in the hospital. Chen recalled that time in her post: "Ilang araw palang si Eli ilang tusok na ng karayom. Alam nyo ba kung gaano kasakit sa amin yun?"
When she gave birth the second time to her daughter Lara, her baby was immediately roomed-in with her, as the law mandates. But her milk letdown did not happen, so the same pediatrician above advised her to give baby formula until she had a milk letdown.
"'Wag gutumin si baby, mommy,'" Chen shared as she recalled what the doctor said. She also agreed because she did not want to repeat what happened to her firstborn. Her milk letdown did happen when she was discharged from the hospital and was back home. But it was not enough, so she did mixed feeding.
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Reflecting on the incident, Chen tells us, "I am sure there are a lot of moms that go through [not having breast milk]. Hindi dapat eto maging breastfeeding [vs] bottle feeding. Basta nanay and baby mahalaga. Guidelines should be challenged to ensure that they take into account all moms and babies."
What do you think of the feeding bottle ban in hospitals? Share your thoughts in the comments!