• Giving Birth? Check Your Hospital's Policy on Feeding Bottles

    Philippine law has a strict clause that prohibits feeding bottles in hospitals.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Giving Birth? Check Your Hospital's Policy on Feeding Bottles
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  • By your sixth month , you're preparing your childbirth essentials, and according to Aurelin Fernando, a certified doula, you’ll need to pack three delivery-day bags: one for baby, one for mommy, and one for daddy. And if you think that's a lot of bags, you should see one mom from our Facebook group Smart Parenting Village. She had shared with us a (very!) comprehensive list, but what it didn't have: feeding bottles.

    For first-time moms, feeding bottles seems to be a natural thing to bring on delivery day, right? You never know when you are going to need it (what if you have low milk supply or your baby is not latching on their breast). But before you pack it in your bag, make sure that the hospital where you will give birth will allow you to do so.

    In one of the discussions on our Village, a number of moms shared that most of Metro Manila hospitals, whether government-owned or private, no longer allowed the use of feeding bottles. Some even confiscated the bottles. Why? In the Philippines, we have a law that prohibits teats, feeding bottles, and artificial feeding paraphernalia in health facilities to encourage breastfeeding.

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    Why can’t I bring feeding bottles in the hospital?

    This clause is part of Executive Order 51, commonly known as the “The Philippine Milk Code of 1986” and the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Executive Order No. 51, which the Department of Health (DOH) issued in 2006. (You can read the policies in full here.)

    The law ensures that there is safe and adequate nutrition for infants and young children, while also promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding. This is why the DOH deems it necessary to educate not only moms-to-be but also the family, community, and the workplace about proper infant and young child feeding.

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    How do hospitals put this law into effect?

    We reached out to The Medical City (TMC) in Ortigas, Pasig City, a mother-baby friendly accredited hospital, to get an idea of how it puts the Milk Code into practice. According to Dr. Ma. Cristina S. Tuazon, a pediatrician from TMC, the hospital has a strict breastfeeding policy.

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    “Part of the policies are the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding by the World Health Organization,” she says in an email interview with SmartParenting.com.ph. “We make certain that we inform mothers of the benefits of breastfeeding as well as the risks of formula feeding.”

    They do this with the help of their doctors and Lactation Center staff, and through the breastfeeding classes that they regularly hold in their hospital. “We make sure that all doctors, nurses, and midwives who come in contact with the mother and her baby receive training on lactation,” Dr. Tuazon says. “We hold refresher courses as well as conferences to keep our staff updated on breastfeeding.”

    In accordance with the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, where the “State adopts rooming-in as a national policy to encourage, protect, and support the practice of breastfeeding,” TMC also lets moms and babies stay in one room after birth.

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    “When a baby is born [here], whether by vaginal or caesarian delivery, the baby is immediately put on the mother’s chest or abdomen for skin-to-skin contact (Unang Yakap). Breastfeeding is initiated during the first hour,” Dr. Tuazon states. “Mother and child are not separated. Only problematic or sick babies are brought to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for advance care. Our policy states that all well babies delivered at TMC should be breastfed or given breast milk except in medical conditions.”

    In the event that the mother cannot produce breast milk right away, the hospital has a Human Milk Bank where the patient can avail of breast milk. Formula feeding is the last resort. “For medical reasons, we allow formula feeding only if: there is insufficient pasteurized donor breast milk available in our Human Milk Bank, no donor breast milk is available to the mother, and for some medical reason, mother’s own expressed milk is not enough to sustain the baby.”

    Lastly, they do not allow the use of feeding bottles in their maternity floors. “Milk supplements, whether expressed mother’s milk, donor milk, or even formula is given via cup feeding, dropper, or syringe,” Dr. Tuazon says.

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    While the law is pretty clear that breastfeeding should be the top priority, there are a lot of moms who would argue that at the end of the day, “fed is best.”

    “We need to remember that formula isn’t evil,” writes Dr. Claire McCarthy, an American pediatrician and faculty editor for Harvard Health in an article for the publication. She wanted readers to keep an open mind about formula feeding as a tool to support breastfeeding. Formula, she said, could supplement struggling breastfeeding moms including those with newborns who have lost a risky amount of weight.

    Ultimately, it is still up to the moms to make the choice whether to breastfeed or give their baby formula. But as long as there are these policies and laws in place, hospitals will require them to abide by them for the duration of their stay. 

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