This is a Finalist in the Government Best Practice Recognition Awards
Human Milk Banking Experience at PCMC: Improving Health Outcomes of Very Low Birth Weight (VLBW) Infants
Philippine Children’s Medical Center - Office for Strategy Management
The Human Milk Banking was pioneered in the country by the Philippine Medical Children’s Center (PCMC) in 1998 in response to the need for safe donor milk, targeting newborn infants at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) whose mothers are unable to breastfeed.
Background and Problem
The PCMC has advocated for breastfeeding and the use of human milk since the establishment of its Newborn Services Division in the 1990s.The nutritional benefits of breastmilk are known to aid the developing immune system of the infants, especially for newborns who have “very low birth weight” (VLBW). The initiative is also meant to cater to sick infants who are temporarily left by their mothers in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and are unable to get ample supply of breastmilk. In other cases, there is also a growing demand from sick mothers who struggle to provide continuous supply of breastmilk to their own infants.
To address the need for breastmilk supply, the PCMC established the first Human Milk Bank in the Philippines to facilitate the collection and storage of breastmilk from healthy lactating mothers in the communities.
Solution and Impact
In collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) in 1998, milk pasteurizers were locally invented. With the invention of the equipment, PCMC pioneered the first Human Milk Bank in the country.
To ensure continuous supply of breastmilk for the Human Milk Bank, the Hospital’s Newborn Services Division initiated the “Alay-Gatas Program” to rally barangay health workers (BHW) to educate and motivate lactating mothers in communities to donate breastmilk to PCMC.
Donated milk from healthy lactating mothers undergoes pasteurization, freezing, bacteriologic examinations, and storage in the human milk bank. The donated milk are dispensed to both in-patients and patients from other hospitals. Breastmilk is made available for in-patients according to prioritization: sick premature infants as the highest priority, followed by well preterm infants, and critically ill full-term infants. It is also provided to suffice infants with VLBW, being a significant portion of patients in the NICU, whose case are often observed and associated with other health problems. The Human Milk Bank aims not only to ensure survival of the infants but also to achieve a good outcome when they reach beyond their newborn (0-6 months) period.
Through the years, the use of donated milk is partnered with the use of advanced technology and expertise of caregivers. This has improved the survival statistics and recovery rate among patients. In addition, the initiative has also manifested a great deal of positive effects by decreasing cost of hospitalization, duration of illness and length of hospital stay, and lesser parental absenteeism at work. The initiative is also associated in the improvement of high-risk mothers and infants.
In the future, PCMC will continue to advocate for breastfeeding and breastmilk donation, and refine the methods of human milk banking according to updated international standards. PCMC also aims to expand the Medical Center’s human milk bank facility to accommodate more mothers in the milk expression area. The Program is the first Human Milk banking in the Philippines. It has won the Hamis Award in 1997.