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The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) clarified recently that while milk donations per se are not prohibited items for distribution to communities, infant formula milk donations are banned under the regulations issued by the Department of Health and adopted by the DILG.

DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said that the acceptance and distribution of donations of infant formula, powdered milk and other breast milk substitutes, commercial baby food, feeding bottles, artificial nipples, and teats are strictly prohibited because it undermines exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a newborn. Therefore, the inclusion of these items in the general distribution of emergency food packs is not allowed.

“May ilang LGUs na ang namigay ng milk formula kasabay ng distribution nila ng food aid. While the intent to help is laudable, our health experts have advised against it. Hindi pa rin mapapantayan ang nutrisyon ng breast milk. Let’s promote, protect and support exclusive breastfeeding only for infants 0 to 6 months old,” he said.

He clarified that only infant formula and other breast milk substitutes are banned and other types of milk for older children and adults are allowed to be distributed by LGUs to their constituents.

Malaya said that this policy is in accordance with current DOH Guidelines. LGUs, he said, are urged to take heed of the National Nutrition Council (NCC)’s Nutrition Cluster Advisory No. 01 Series of 2020 that provides the guidelines on LGUs’ nutrition actions relative to the Covid-19 crisis.

The advisory says that all mothers in affected and at-risk areas who have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, should seek medical care early, and follow instructions from a health care provider.

Breastfed infants and young children of mothers who are too unwell to breastfeed or whose mothers have died may require replacement feeding with a nutritionally adequate diet such as with pasteurized donor breast milk for sick newborns and preterm infants, donated breast milk, through wet nursing.

For symptomatic mothers well enough to breastfeed, they should be advised of wearing a mask when near her infant or child including during feeding, washing hands with soap and water before and after contact with the child including feeding, and cleaning or disinfecting contaminated surfaces – as should be done in all cases where anyone with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 interacts with others, including children.

If a mother is too ill, she should be encouraged to express breast milk and give it to her infant or child via a clean cup or spoon – all while following the same infection prevention and control methods.

Moreover, Malaya reminds LGUs of the mandate of RA 11148 directing LGUs in areas affected by emergency situations to immediately provide food supplies for proper nourishment of pregnant and lactating mothers, and children, specifically those from zero to two years old.

Women, infant, and child-friendly spaces shall be prepared and ready to accommodate women and their children, provide their daily necessities such as food, clothing, clean water, and shelter; readily available breastfeeding support and counseling for those with children up to two years or beyond, as well as provision and guidance on the appropriate complementary food for children over 6 months old.

The DILG Spokesperson further urges LGUs to enhance the quality of food rations through the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the food packs, if possible especially in the provincial areas.

“Sa pamamagitan po ng pagsama sa food relief packs ng mga prutas at gulay ay makakatulong ito sa nutrisyon ng mga ina na nagbebreastfeed ng kanilang mga bagong silang na anak,” he said.

“For those in need of milk, they may get in touch with the DOH field offices for alternatives especially if they can source it from milk banks,” he added.