Jul 21, 2016

Best Gifts for a New Mom's Baby Shower

Someone I know is having a baby!

And since you're reading this article, I'd bet someone you know is having a baby too.

So what would be a good gift to bring to the baby shower?


A few months ago, I worked at this parenting store. It was full of the most wonderful, amazing, why-did-I-not-know-that-thing-existed-when-I-had-my-first-baby-eleven-years-ago kind of merchandise.

So I've got a headful of stuff that I think a new mom would love. Choose your budget below.

For less than P500

Sacred newborn cleanser. This specialized infant cleanser is formulated to clean and protect from irritation the skin of babies 0-6 months old.

How did it come about? Well, according to the manufacturer Gov Daswani, a dermatologist mom once lamented there was nothing in the market she could recommend for the sensitive skin of babies in their first 6 months of life.

So Gov brought together a team of chemists and came up with a liquid baby wash that's completely free of any harsh ingredients, meaning no fragrance, no strong acids, no dermatitis-causing potassium sorbate/sorbic acid or methylisothiazolinones, and no parabens either.

Although parabens have not been clinically proven to be toxic to humans when used as a skin cleanser ingredient, they are recognized as an environmental contaminant; and naturally, we want to preserve the world we are bringing babies into, right?

The result was Sacred newborn cleanser, the simplest, most gentle baby wash in the market today, specially made for baby's sacred 6 months.

Incidentally, because Sacred has no sorbic acid and methylisothiazolinones, you can also use it for older babies suffering from irritant- or allergy-triggered rashes.

Price: P399

For P600–P1,000

Mommy Treats Lactation Brownies. Pregnancy is often a tough time for mommies. (Personally, I'd rather give birth 9 times a year than be pregnant for 9 months!)

Mommy treats will help your pregnant friend forget her discomforts even for just a little while.

But you have to be careful what treats to give, because you have to consider the health of both the mommy and the baby.

Mommy Treats lactation brownies are healthy low-sugar, low-fat, super-delicious treats specially designed for mommies.

Not only do they satiate sweet cravings, their ingredients also include milk supply enhancers such as brewer's yeast, oats, flaxseed, and oatmeal to increase mommy's milk supply for baby.

In addition, these ingredients are rich in fiber, iron, vitamin B, and Omega-3, so they're really good for pregnant women.

Price: P660 (12-day supply)

Mega Malunggay. We always say there's no better gift than the gift of good health.

Give good health to both your pregnant friend and her baby by giving her a large box of Mega Malunggay capsules, the most nutrient- and antioxidant-rich malunggay (Moringa oleifera) capsules in the local market today.

With its 600 mg of pure malunggay powder, Mega Malunggay packs 140% more malunggay than the 250-mg capsule of the leading malunggay brand. The price difference, however, is miniscule: P9.50/capsule of Mega Malunggay vs. P9.15/capsule of the other brand.

Note, too, that unlike many malunggay capsules, which are made with various parts of the malunggay tree, Mega Malunggay contains only malunggay leaves, which have demonstrated more antixodant activity than any other malunggay part.

Several clinical studies have also proven the efficacy of malunggay supplements in increasing milk supply after 7 days of daily consumption.

Mega Malunggay is also available in 10-capsule and 20-capsule packs, priced at P100 and P200, respectively.

Price: P950 (box of 100)

For P1,001–P2,000

Ribbed cover-ups. If your friend plans to breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months, she will inevitably end up nursing or pumping in public quite a few times.

She will probably feel way more comfortable doing so with a nursing cover-up. (Although some of us are not shy about nursing openly anywhere and everywhere, we would still cover up when pumping in public.)

There are plenty of cover-up varieties in the market. Some can double as infinity scarves, shawls, blankets, pouches, etc.

But in my experience, the best cover-up is the one that is specifically designed as a nursing cover-up and nothing else. I'm talking about the one with a stiff plastic rib that keeps the top of the cover-up open so you can easily see your baby or pump inside the cover-up.

This rib is especially useful when you're hand expressing, because then you'll need both hands to express, and you'll also need to see what you're doing or you'll end up squirting milk all over the place.

In our workplace, my colleagues and I use our cover-ups in lieu of a lactation station because we prefer to work while pumping (I hope our boss is reading this, ha ha).

Price: P1,300

Tummy Tub. I admit, I've called it "a very expensive bucket" too, once in my life.

But when I brought home my preemie and found out how much he loved being almost-fully immersed in warm water (he actually fell asleep), I wished I had a Tummy Tub, which was truly designed to mimic the womb experience, unlike your regular bucket.

One important thing about the Tummy Tub is that it's transparent, so it's easier to make sure baby is safe inside.

Also, unlike a regular bucket, the Tummy Tub plastic is completely safe and non-toxic for baby to suck and chew on.

It has a slip-proof base. It has absolutely no sharp edges. And it has no bucket handle that could accidentally pinch an exploring baby's fingers.

Unlike a baby bathtub, the Tummy Tub's high edges also protect baby from the ambient air, keeping the warmth of the warm water in and the cold air out.

Naturally, all these things come with a price. But what, really, is the price of baby's comfort and safety?

Baby Meet World has an excellent piece on the Tummy Tub, so rather than plagiarize their content, I'll just send you there with this link: A Guide to TummyTub Across the Ages.

Price: P1,395

Medela Harmony manual breastpump. Finally, if you want to hear a real scream of joy, give your friend the breastpump brand that's trusted by hospitals the world over: Medela.

The Medela Harmony is a comfortable, ergonomic, manual breastpump. Like its electric counterparts, the Medela Harmony incorporates Medela's special 2-Phase Expression technology, which allows the mother to express more milk in less time compared to other pumps.

It's not called the "Rolls-Royce of breast pumps" for nothing.

IMPORTANT: New moms are advised to breastfeed directly and exclusively during their baby's first 6 months. 

However, working moms may need to leave their baby sooner to return to work, and that is when breastpumps come in handy.

Even for fully home-based moms, the Medela Harmony is useful for when the new mom needs to relieve an engorged breast or pump a few ounces to leave with baby's caregiver before she goes out for errands.

Shy moms may also find the almost-soundless Medela Harmony a more discreet way to pump in public than its motorized counterparts.

Price: P2,000

Now my list ends at P2,000 because for my own emotional health, I avoid ogling products with price tags that go above that.

But if your budget is higher, there are many other excellent baby shower gifts you can find at The Parenting Emporium, located at 29 1st Street, New Manila, Quezon City, Philippines.


They've got co-sleepers, baby clothes, bamboo diapers, brown rice rings, electric breastpumps, etc.

They've also got parenting classes and support groups for various parenting situations, such as exclusive breastfeeding, raising multiples, raising kids with special needs, homeschooling, etc.

To get their full list of item prices, parenting classes, and support group meetings, email info@theparentingemporium.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram (just search for "The Parenting Emporium").

The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a homeschooling mom of five. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.

Jul 14, 2016

9 Research-Backed Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Moringa oleifera (Malunggay)

JfMalunggay9819Morinagafvf 05If you’re a pregnant mom, you’ve surely heard of malunggay. It’s well touted as a galactagogue, or a milk supply enhancer.

A lot of people also swear that consuming malunggay has helped improve their immunity or control their diabetes, hypertension, infection, etc.

But much of these are anecdotal evidence, easily attributable to placebo effect.

The question is, what do scientifically designed and peer-reviewed research studies say? What does the empirical evidence point to? What are the facts?

Fact 1: Heat processing makes Moringa oleifera more nutritious, not less. While many of us are wary about cooking our vegetables because heat is known to destroy dietary nutrients, Hsu et al. observed that heat-processed malunggay leaves actually have three times as much readily absorbable iron as raw malunggay leaves.[1]

Also, a review article published by the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention states, “As commonly known, most vegetables lose their nutrients upon cooking. However, it was observed that Moringa leaves whether fresh, cooked or stored as dried powder for months without refrigeration, did not lose its [sic] nutritional value.”[2]

Fact 2: Among all parts of the Moringa oleifera tree, it is the leaves that hold the greatest antioxidant powers. In a 2015 biomedical article comparing the observed antioxidant benefits of malunggay seeds, leaves, bark, roots, sap, flowers, and seed pod, it was found that “[Malunggay] leaf extracts exhibit the greatest antioxidant activity.”[3]

Fact 3: Moringa oleifera leaves have been proven useful in controlling diabetes. At least five human studies have shown that both the extract and the powdered form of malunggay leaves can control and regulate the body’s levels of blood sugar and low-density lipoproteins, more commonly known as “bad cholesterol.”[3]

In addition, a single high-dose administration of malunggay leaf powder has also been found to significantly increase the secretion of insulin in healthy human subjects.[4] This suggests a potential for malunggay to be used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Fact 4: Moringa oleifera can enhance sexual function. In 2015, researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of Khon Kaen University in Thailand published a study that showed a low dose of malunggay leaf extract improved sexual performance in stress-exposed animal subjects. The subjects were observed to have more frequent intromission (male-to-female genital insertion), lower levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), higher levels of testosterone (a sex hormone), and higher sperm counts.[5]

Fact 5: Moringa oleifera oil can protect sperm cells from the harmful effects of toxins. A study published in April 2016 showed that orally ingested malunggay oil protected animal subjects from the effects of mercury chloride toxicity. Unlike their unprotected counterparts, the malunggay oil drinkers did not experience poor sperm count, lower sperm motility, and reduced testosterone levels that were the common results of exposure to the toxin.[6]

Fact 6: Moringa oleifera is a natural antibacterial agent. Extracts from malunggay leaves have demonstrated “remarkable” antibacterial effects against Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning and typhoid fever; E. coli, which can cause diarrhea and kidney failure; and Klebsiella pneumonia, which can cause pneumonia, urinary tract infection, wound infection, and meningitis. This was reported by a study published in the Nepal Medical College Journal in 2010.[7]

Fact 7: Moringa oleifera may protect your liver from all the fatty food you eat. In 2012, researchers from the University of Calcutta fed two groups of mice with a high-fat diet, but one group was given malunggay leaf extracts as well. The researchers found that, compared to the mice who received a high-fat diet only, the mice who also received malunggay leaf supplements had a significant increase in antioxidant parameters in their liver and less fat peroxidation,[8] which has been associated with many diseases, including atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, kidney damage, preeclampsia, and asthma.[9]

Fact 8: Moringa oleifera makes for an effective and all-natural wound dressing material. When used as wound dressing, malunggay polymers help blood clot faster, fight bacteria, absorb wetness, and are biodegradable.[10]

Fact 9: Moringa oleifera is an efficacious milk supply enhancer. To date, there have been at least six randomized controlled trials done on human subjects to test malunggay's efficacy as a galactagogue. The pooled results of these studies show a significant increase in milk volume in the mothers on their seventh day of supplementing their diet with malunggay.[11]

The facts above came from the most trusted sources of biomedical knowledge in the world: the US Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine; the National Institutes of Health; and ResearchGate.

Now if you're looking for the best malunggay supplements in the country, you can find them at The Parenting Emporium, a proud distributor of Mega Malunggay from VPharma.

At practically the same price per capsule as the leading brand (P9.50 vs. P9.15 for every 100 capsules), each Mega Malunggay capsule contains 100% more pure malunggay leaf powder (500 mg vs. 250 mg), unadulterated by any other part of the malunggay tree.

To purchase Mega Malunggay, visit The Parenting Emporium at 29 1st Street, New Manila, Quezon City. You may also have your order delivered by texting 0917-5614366.

REFERENCES
  1. Hsu R, Midcap S, Arbainsyah DWL. Moringa oleifera: medicinal and socio-economical uses. International Course on Economic Botany. National Herbarium Leiden, the Netherlands. 2006 Sep: 2-6.
  2. Razis AFA, Ibrahim MD, Kntayya SB. Health benefits of Moringa oleifera. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014; 15(20): 8571-6. Available from: http://www.apocpcontrol.org/paper_file/issue_abs/Volume15_No20/8571-8576%208.13%20Ahmad%20Faizal%20Abdull%20Razis%20[MINI-REVIEW].pdf
  3. Stohs SJ, Hartman MJ. Review of the safety and efficacy of Moringa oleifera. Phytother Res. 2015 Jun; 29(6): 769-804. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.5325/abstract
  4. Anthanont P, Lumlerdkij N, Akarasereenont P, Vannasaeng S, Sriwijitkamol A. Moringa oleifera Leaf Increases Insulin Secretion after Single Dose Administration: A Preliminary Study in Healthy Subjects. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. 2016 Mar;99(3):308-13. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27276742
  5. Prabsattroo T, Wattanathorn J, Iamsaard S, Somsapt P, Sritragool O, Thukhummee W, Muchimapura S. Moringa oleifera extract enhances sexual performance in stressed rats. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2015 Mar 1;16(3):179-90. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25743119
  6. Abarikwu SO, Benjamin S, Ebah SG, Obilor G, Agbam G. Oral administration of Moringa oleifera oil but not coconut oil prevents mercury‐induced testicular toxicity in rats. Andrologia. 2016 Apr 1. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27071754
  7. Rahman MM, Akhter S, Jamal MA, Pandeya DR, Haque MA, Alam MF, Rahman A. Control of coliform bacteria detected from diarrhea associated patients by extracts of Moringa oleifera. Nepal Med Coll J. 2010 Mar;12(1):12-9. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20677603
  8. Das N, Sikder K, Ghosh S, Fromenty B, Dey S. Moringa oleifera Lam. leaf extract prevents early liver injury and restores antioxidant status in mice fed with high-fat diet. Indian J Exp Biol. 2012 Jun;50(6):404-12. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22734251
  9. Mylonas C, Kouretas D. Lipid peroxidation and tissue damage. In vivo. 1998 Dec;13(3):295-309. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10459507
  10. Bhatnagar M, Parwani L, Sharma V, Ganguli J, Bhatnagar A. Hemostatic, antibacterial biopolymers from Acacia arabica (Lam.) Willd. and Moringa oleifera (Lam.) as potential wound dressing materials. Indian J Exp Biol. 2013 Oct;51(10):804-10. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266104
  11. Raguindin PF, Dans LF, King JF. Moringa oleifera as a galactagogue. Breastfeeding Medicine. June 2014;9(6). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262917155_Moringa_oleifera_as_a_Galactagogue

The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a homeschooling mom of five. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.

Mar 22, 2016

Unboxing the Philippine General Hospital Charity Ward, Part IV: Life at the NICU

This is the last of a series of articles about my experiences at the University of the Philippines (UP)–Philippine General Hospital (PGH) charity wards. To read the first of this series, click here: Part I, The OB Admitting Section and Delivery Room.

The War Zone

Because I gave birth to my child two months before full term, we had to stay at the PGH neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for about a month.

It is a grim place. The doctors seldom smile. If you're used to the warm cordiality of your private consultants, you will feel the chill here.

The nurses are coldly efficient, unsympathetic, and grouchy.

But soon I realized that the NICU, by its very nature, is not a place for kind words and gentle smiles. It is a war zone, and the medical staff are fighting for their patients' lives with worn-out tools and insufficient supplies.

In the one month that my baby and I spent at the NICU, I learned that sometimes, compassion is shown not by commiserating and holding hands.

In battlefield conditions, it is shown simply by showing up every day and doing what needs to be done.

Compassion in the NICU means not giving up the fight.

This post goes out to all the NICU fellows, residents, their attending, and the nurses and nurse aides who all fought to save my baby's life.

Facade of the UP-PGH. The Oblation statue is a well-known icon of the UP system. It is a symbol for giving one's all in the service of the nation. (Image by Faisal Hermogeno Jackarain via Wikipedia)

The NICU Doctors

My first glimpse of the NICU doctor's psyche was not in a face-to-face encounter. It was in a pharmacy receipt that my husband handed me as he told me an unexpected story.

In  the receipt was the name of NICU third-year resident Dr. A.* I learned that while we were out, our baby urgently needed meds that were not available on hand.

So Dr. A purchased the meds for us.

Note that Dr. A was not our personal friend. We had not met him before, nor did we ever meet him again since we left the NICU.

He did not know whether his expense would ever get paid back. (It did.) We were strangers, but he did it for our child who was his patient.

Now tell me again that PGH doctors have no compassion for charity patients.

-----

Dr. D was the fellow who was in charge of my baby. From the very first day, she constantly updated me and my husband regarding our son's condition.

She never showed optimism, nor did she ever show despair. She simply told us what the problems were and what were being done to solve them.

One day, on our third week, when my child was finally cleared of all jaundice and infection and was just waiting to be discharged, Dr. D said, "I am so happy the phototherapy worked. I was worried we would have to do an exchange transfusion!"

It was the first time I saw that much emotion on her face, and the emotion I saw was one of relief.

"I had no idea the jaundice was that bad," I said. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Oh," she smiled. "I didn't want you to worry unnecessarily, so I held it in as much as I could."

Thank you, doctor, for carrying that burden for me.

-----

Dr. T was not directly in charge of my child, but aside from Dr. D, she was one of the first doctors to make me feel comfortable in the NICU.

She would approach me every day on my first week, and she read my baby's chart for me.

Thank goodness she did. Dr. D was out, and the nurses looked so busy, I couldn't get the nerve to approach them first to ask my questions.

"Is everything okay, Mommy?" she would ask me while I was doing kangaroo mother care (KMC). "Is there anything you would like to know?"

There was a million things I wanted to know. Why was my baby's breathing so shallow? How can I know he was still breathing when I could hardly feel anything? Was I doing this KMC thing right?

She answered all my questions patiently.

Thank you for the gift of your time, Dr. T.

-----

Among all the first-year residents who were assigned at the NICU during my son's confinement, Dr. N and Dr. B were the ones who seemed directly involved in my son's care.

They kept track of every 0.01 digit change in his weight. They relayed all my concerns to the nurses for me. (Yes, at the NICU, the residents advocate for the patients to the nurses, not the other way around). And they exulted with me at my son's every little victory.

To this day, we have kept in touch. I am honored that they have allowed me to call them my friends.

The NICU Nurses

If the NICU doctors were generally unsmiling, the NICU nurses were downright scary.

These guardians of the wards and enforcers of the rules don't mince words. If a child is in the NICU, that child is theirs, and you are just the parents.

If you, the parent, ever does anything to threaten the well-being of a NICU child – like if you enter without a hospital gown or forget to bring breastmilk for your baby – prepare for a harsh scolding.

"If you are concerned about the welfare of your child, we are even more so," Nurse L once told me me after I gave my child milk via the orogastric tube without her permission.

"That milk could have gone to your son's lungs. He could have died!"

In this place, nothing is ever sugar coated.

"How is my son, ma'am?" a father once asked. "Is he okay?"

"Sir, if your child was okay, he would not be in the NICU," the nurse said.

-----

But behind their frowning  facades, these nurses still have times when they show a warm beating heart.

Like that time when I had to do KMC under the extremely bright, headache-inducing phototherapy light.

The nurse saw me and asked, what in the world was I doing?

I explained: My son had been prescribed phototherapy. So he needed to be naked.

But the poor kid was shivering! The incubator, as I mentioned in my previous post, was not working, and they had run out of thermal blankets to at least warm the ambient air.

So I sat under the phototherapy light with my semi-naked baby on my chest, using my own body heat as a warmer.

The nurse shook her head. Then she rearranged the babies in the NICU so my baby could have an empty bassinet with an overhead warmer and a phototherapy light at the same time.

Do I blame her for not noticing that the baby was cold in the first place?

At that time, she was the only nurse in a room with over 15 babies. If I were in her shoes, I'm not sure I would have fared any better.

Not Perfect, But...

I realize this post may sound like a mere paean to the PGH medical staff.

It is not.

I can repeat to you all the bad things you've already heard before about PGH, and I can even add more. 

The hospital is so understaffed, there were times when a blanket or a phototherapy eye protector would slip off a baby and nobody would notice.

When we got home, I discovered that a working scale only costs P1,500.
There were occasions when the lack of facilities was truly outrageous. At the pedia ward (Ward 9), for instance, the weighing scale would give two different readings for the same child within the span of 30 seconds. 

In the marketplace, it is illegal to possess such a weighing scale. But at the PGH, medical decisions were made based on data from that malfunctioning scale.

There were residents who went above and beyond the call of duty; but I have also encountered some who looked at their patients and failed to see persons, only diseases.

Every place has its imperfections, and perhaps the PGH has more imperfections than others.

But maybe that is why I wrote this series: We have already heard so much of the bad.

It's time to strike a balance.

*Names are limited to single initials to preserve the individuals' privacy.

The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a work-at-home and homeschooling mom of five. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.

Mar 21, 2016

Unboxing the Philippine General Hospital Charity Ward, Part III: The Neonatal ICU

When I was at the OB admitting section and delivery room, one of the residents asked me, "Why did you choose [the Philippine General Hospital] to give birth in?"

I answered, "The hospital I came from did not have the necessary facilities for taking care of a preemie."

The resident smirked, "Neither do we."
By Bobjgalindo via Wikipedia
Image by Bobjgalindo via Wikipedia. This is not what the PGH NICU looks like.
It was a snide remark, but it was not all untrue. From what I've seen, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a poorly equipped place for caring for a preemie.

There were not enough incubators, not enough bassinets, not enough floor space, not enough medical staff, not enough milk supply, and not enough meds on hand to fully answer the needs of the patients.

But it is precisely these limitations that make the PGH NICU an amazing place. Because in this severely austere environment, the dedication and skill of the doctors, nurses, and nurse aides shine bright, like a beacon in a storm.

Entering the NICU

My husband brought me to the NICU to see our son the day after my C-section. 

Only parents are allowed at the NICU, and only one parent at a time, so my husband and my brother, who was visiting, waited outside. 

A doctor met me at the door and showed me where my baby was.

I was led towards an incubator. Most of the other babies were in bassinets, but preemies like my son needed more warmth, the doctor said.

I noticed that there was a heating pad inside the incubator. I realized that the incubator was not working, that's why the heating pad was needed. The "incubator" was really just a plastic box.

So what? For me, the main thing was that my baby was still alive. I was grateful for whatever help that plastic box provided.

Not much bigger than my hand
It was easier to look at the box than the baby. My son was so, so small. His entire torso could fit in my hand. 

He was fitted with a nasal cannula to help him breathe, an oro-gastric tube in his mouth for direct feeding, makeshift eye protectors for the anti-jaundice phototherapy, and an intravenous line in his foot for supplementary nutrition and meds.

My brother, who was also a doctor, had earlier advised me to talk to him and touch him. "Touch is a powerful stimulus," he said.

So I reached inside the box and gently stroked my baby's chest and arms, talked to him softly and tried not to cry.

Later outside, his doctor, a fellow in training, met me and my husband to discuss the condition of our child. 

She was kind but direct, giving no false reassurances. The baby still stopped breathing from time to time, she said. The enemies were apnea and infection. It was too early to tell what will happen.

But we could help improve his chances by doing kangaroo mother care (KMC) as soon as his breathing stabilizes.

Kangaroo Mother Care

KMC is when you put your shirtless baby directly onto your chest, under your shirt, and carry him skin-to-skin for at least three hours. 

Clinical trials have shown that KMC helps baby grow and develop faster both physically and mentally; relieves baby's pain from repeated blood collection; and may even help fight methicillin-oxacillin-resistant bacteria in baby's nostrils.

My baby's doctor also explained that KMC helps keep baby warm and preserves valuable calories; it exposes him to my natural bacteria, which helps to gently build up his immune system; and it limits his exposure to the multi-drug-resistant bacteria of the NICU environment.

PGH is a certified KMC institution. It strongly encourages all NICU parents, male or female, to do KMC.

Although the NICU has visiting hours, parents are allowed to do KMC 24/7. The NICU doctors, nurses, and nurse aides are very supportive. 

If you're craving to spend more time with your baby and the regular visiting hours are not enough, volunteer to do KMC. Then you can stay at the NICU every day and at all hours, and the medical staff will love you for it.

Daily Visits

I visited my baby every day after that. It was easy. The NICU was just two floors away from Ward 14B.

Then the day came that I was to be discharged from the OB ward.

I was not immediately allowed to go home. Because I was leaving my son in the NICU, I had to be interviewed by a hospital social worker first. They needed to know I could and would visit my child at least three times a week to ensure that his material needs (such as breastmilk) were supplied.

They required me to bring a barangay certification of residence so that if I did not return to the hospital, the police would know where to arrest me under charges of child abuse due to negligence.

For me, the idea of not seeing my baby for even a day was unthinkable. But that was me in my pampered middle-class condition.

For many people in the Philippines, a daily visit to the hospital is a very difficult and expensive thing to do. I have witnessed the sacrifices of these non-middle-class mothers for their babies, and I have nothing but admiration for them.

But that is another story.

When the interview with the social worker was done and the documentary requirements were completed, I could finally leave the OB ward.

It was a Tuesday evening when my husband brought me home to our other kids. The very next morning, we were back at PGH for the child we had left behind.

The NICU was at the fourth floor, so I decided to take the elevator. It would not do to be stair-climbing five days after my C-section, I said to myself.

There was a long queue. The single working elevator serviced seven floors.

After 10 minutes at the queue, I discovered that the elevator stayed about 45 seconds at each floor, so a round trip took around nine minutes.

When the door finally opened, only one-third of the queue could get in, so the rest of us had to wait again.

By simple calculation, a person at the end of the line would have to wait approximately 27 minutes before she could get an elevator ride.

The next day, six days after my C-section, and every day thereafter, I decided to take the stairs.

NICU Rules and Routine

Before entering the NICU, everyone has to wash their hands and put a hospital gown over their street clothes to prevent outside dirt from coming into direct contact with the NICU facilities.

My advice: as much as possible, always look for a freshly laundered gown, i.e., one that is still neatly folded.

Remember, NICU parents tend to cry. Heaven only knows what unsanitary body fluids are in those gowns that were simply hung up for reuse after the earlier visitors left.

---

Before you enter the NICU, make sure you have expressed breastmilk with you. The doctors and nurses will ask for it because it is the only thing they can feed to your baby. The Milk Code forbids hospitals from giving babies infant formula.

Without your precious milk donation, your baby will go hungry.

Although PGH tries to make sure the NICU babies always receive enough breastmilk through the milk bank, there are times when the milk bank supply runs dangerously low.

In the four weeks I was there, I witnessed two weeks in which milk was so scarce, babies who had no supply from their mothers and relied fully on the milk bank received only half of what they needed to thrive.

The babies were fed, yes, but they were obviously still hungry. They cried and cried and cried.

Imagine a room echoing with the wail of 16 hungry babies and you would have a good idea of what the NICU sounded like 30 minutes after feeding time.

The staff was visibly distressed. The nurses and midwives often muttered, if only they could produce milk themselves, they would. And you could see that they meant it.

To get more milk, they coerced, cajoled, and bullied every mother who came to the NICU to breastfeed one other baby in addition to their own.

Because I stayed at the NICU for 32 hours at a time, with only 16-hour breaks in between to get some sleep and take a bath at home, I was able to make sure my baby always had all the milk he needed. On good days, I'd have milk to share as well.

But how can anyone produce enough milk to feed 16 babies?

-----

PGH NICU's KMC chair (Image owned by St. Joseph Trading)
If you're doing KMC, it's a good idea to arrive before 12 p.m. This way, you will have at least three hours to do KMC with your baby before 3 p.m., when the nurses begin endorsing their wards to the nurses whose shifts are just beginning.

The nurses seem to prefer having no parents around during endorsement time, so I used the 3–4 p.m. endorsement period to take my snack and bathroom break.

The most comfortable way to do KMC is by wearing a tube blouse. This will ensure that your baby will stay securely in place even if you fall asleep.

PGH nurses usually wake mothers up when they doze off during KMC because the baby is in danger of falling. But if you're wearing a tube blouse, they will usually let you nap.

The next endorsement time is at 11 p.m. The nurses will ask you to take a break from KMC again because it's time for the nurse aides to bathe the babies and check their weight.

I used this time to have my dinner. My baby and I would resume KMC after midnight. I'd sleep in the plastic KMC chair inside the NICU. My baby and I would stay this way until morning.

-----

If you want to express milk on site, PGH NICU has a lactation station.

I hated using it.

Hear me out.

Before you express milk, you have to wash your hands. Of course.

You could use a sanitizer too, but any healthcare professional will tell you, nothing beats the cleanness of properly washed hands.

If your baby's most likely killer is infection, you will not rely on sanitizers. You will wash your hands.

But there is no sink at the lactation station. So before you go there, you need to wash your hands at the sink near the NICU entrance.

Then you have to walk all the way to the lactation station, about fifty meters away.

Then you knock and cross your fingers.

The lactation station's door is always locked. It cannot be opened without a key.

Only the nurses and nurse aides have access to the key. So you'd better hope that when you get there, there will be somebody to open the door for you.

Often, there is not. What I used to do was, after I washed my hands, I would try to find a nurse or nurse aide who would open the lactation station for me.

They would tell me to go ahead and they'd be right behind.

But with all the things that go on in the NICU, it often happens that they forget that somebody was waiting for them. And the door would stay locked.

How did the other mothers get in, you ask.

Most of the other mothers kept vigil at the bench right beside the lactation station's door. I never found out why they were not inside doing KMC.

When a mother's baby cries inside the NICU, a nurse would call the mother to go into the lactation room to feed her baby and then express milk for the milk bank as well. Perhaps the other mothers went in at the same time.

I noticed the mothers there usually did things en masse: have lunch, go to church, sleep, express milk.

I didn't join them for only one reason: I have always preferred to do things alone. That's all.

But I digress.

Should you succeed in entering the lactation station, you'll find hospital gowns on the chair. You're required to put one of these over your street clothes.

But you can't really express milk while wearing a hospital gown, can you? So nobody really wore those gowns.

To avoid being scolded by the nurse, we put the gowns across our laps.

Some rules just don't make a lot of sense.

Then there's the milk pump. The first time I used it, the collection bottles and breast flanges were newly washed.

But that was the last time I saw them clean. They were apparently passed from mother to mother without being washed in between.

Got milk?
I understand the limitations. There just weren't enough replacement breast shields/flanges and bottles to keep up with the parade of moms using the pump, I guess.

There was only one or two pairs of bottles that fit the pump. The expressed milk was stored in repurposed specimen bottles.

One cannot help but suspect that the hygiene standards of the lactation station somehow contributed to the rate of infection spread in the NICU.

Trying to avoid that risk, and also because I got so tired of knocking on a door that seldom opened, I learned to hand express my milk and did my milk letting directly beside my baby's bed in the NICU instead.

Continued in Part IV: Life at the NICU


The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a work-at-home and homeschooling mom of five. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.

Mar 19, 2016

Unboxing the Philippine General Hospital Charity Ward, Part II: The OB-Gyn Ward (Ward 14B)

(Source: Ramiltibayan - Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0)
This is the second part of a series of articles that chronicle my experiences at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) obstetric, neonatal ICU, and pediatric charity wards. 

On September 30, 2015, the twenty-ninth week of my pregnancy, I went into preterm labor. My OB-gyn advised me that if my baby was alive at birth, he would likely need to stay at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for a month or two.

My husband and I were financially prepared for childbirth but not for a month's stay in the NICU. That's how we ended up at the PGH charity ward.

Part I is about the OB admitting section and delivery room.

Ward 14B

From the delivery room, I was brought to Ward 14B.

It was a big, clean, attractive, airy, high-ceilinged room. There was no air conditioning, but the ceiling fans were usually enough to keep the room comfortable. Patients were also allowed to bring their own electric fan, for a P25 fee.

Compared to the OBAS, Ward 14B was heaven. My husband was allowed to stay beside me, so I could tell him directly what I needed instead of playing pass the message with the nurse and the security guard. But best of all, the beds had mattresses! 

Oh, how I almost kissed those four-inch-thick mattresses. The unforgiving OBAS beds had so numbed my poor backside that when I got to Ward 14B, I could no longer feel my buttocks and inner thighs.

(Not everyone stays so long at the OBAS. But when your case is premature labor, they try to delay childbirth as long as possible to give your baby a better chance of survival. So I stayed at the OBAS for nearly 48 hours.)

At Ward 14B, the patients were allowed to have one companion stay beside the bed all the time. But make no mistake, the companion may not sit on the patient's bed or even on a vacant bed. A chair was provided for them beside the bed.

Come nighttime, the companions would lay cartons or thin mattresses on the floor beside or beneath their patient's bed, and that's where they would sleep.

At 6 a.m., a nurse would walk along the halls clanging a bell, signaling the companions to wake up and put their "beds" away. 

At 7 a.m., the breakfast cart would arrive.

At 8 or 9 a.m., the nurse would call out to the parents to line up their babies. Then the nurse would give the babies a bath. 

The lunch cart comes at 12. Then the dinner cart at 5 or 6 p.m. The man delivering food also sold juice in tetrapacks and coffee and Milo powder in sachets.

I ate pretty well. I've been to several hospitals in my life, including that hotel-like one in Ortigas Ave., but the PGH hospital food is the best tasting I've ever had!

Overall, it was a very comfortable place. In fact, the obstetric wards are, without question, absolutely the most pleasant wards in all of PGH because there is no sickness here, only recuperating mothers and their adorable babies.

There was a lactation room for mothers who wanted to pump milk. Since my baby was a preemie who couldn't suck yet, I used that room a lot. There was never a queue to deal with. Most mothers had their babies with them, and they fed directly from their mother's breasts.

The Bathroom

The main ward was like heaven, but the ward's bathroom was like hell.

To this day, I have nothing but spitting contempt for the maintenance team of that bathroom. They could never blame the patients for the pathetic condition of those bathrooms, because the patients actually cleaned up too, as much as they could.

Charity ward or not, you should never expect patients to clean up the bathroom.

And knowing that those wards were partly funded by my exorbitant taxes, I am frankly disgusted by its lack of maintenance.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you what the bathrooms were like.

There were three toilet stalls and three shower stalls.

Of the three toilet stalls, only two had a door. Of the two that had a door, one had a clogged bowl, while the other bowl had a broken pipe.

I preferred to use the one with the broken pipe because it sent your business directly down the drain, so you could flush with just one dipperful of water.  

The only problem was, because that pipe was broken and waterless, all the odors from the stuff beneath it wafted upwards, making the whole bathroom smell like a septic tank.

I mentioned flushing with one dipperful of water. That's because the flushes don't work. You had to fill a bucket with water from the shower room, carry it to the toilet, and pour it down the bowl to flush.

It's really not so hard – unless you're a woman who had just had a C-section. Then you're bound to spill a little and wet the floor. This makes the bathroom floor slippery and muddy and just plain yucky in general.

It could have been largely avoided if they had working flushes.

Of course, if your husband was there, he could flush the toilet for you. But your big, strong man is probably out trying to decode and complete the amazing array of discharge paperwork, so you're on your own most of the time.

Did I just say your husband can enter the ladies' room? No, I said he could enter the bathroom. There's no ladies' room or men's room. One bathroom for both sexes, sister. 

So you can imagine how awkward things can get should you ever decide to use that toilet stall that has no door. 

As for the shower stalls, well, they don't actually have showers. They have buckets. You know how that works: fill the bucket, bend down, scoop water, pour on self. 

It's a good time to mention that all mothers in the OB ward were required to take a bath before they could get a discharge order.

So start bending and scooping in those shower stalls. It's actually pretty easy to bend and scoop – unless you're a woman who has just had a CS. 

I stayed in Ward 14B for four days. I could have gone home on the third day, but my husband was not done with the paperwork. 

It's the same story you hear in every bed: 
  1. You ask for instructions.
  2. They send you to a long queue. 
  3. After two hours, you reach the head of the line where they give you a checklist of documents and filled-out forms you should have brought. 
  4. You leave the line, get the stuff, join the queue again. 
  5. Repeat for each of the three-or-so forms you have to complete.
In the meantime, the patient has recuperated and is raring to leave her bed so somebody else can take it. But the paperwork is not done.

At that lovely but expensive hospital in Ortigas Ave., they give you a brochure with a detailed checklist and instructions for completing the discharge procedure before you even reach your room.

I can't understand why the same cannot be done here. Give the checklist early! The expense for the paper would be the same.

In any case, my husband and I were finally able to figure out how to complete all those forms. I can't believe we had so much trouble despite our maroon-and-green Iskolar ng Bayan backgrounds. How do those with only elementary school diplomas manage?

I was discharged but the story is far from over. My baby was still in the NICU, fighting for his life.

The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a work-at-home and homeschooling mom of five. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.

Mar 17, 2016

Unboxing the Philippine General Hospital Charity Ward, Part I: The OB Admitting Section and Delivery Room

Backstory

On September 30, 2015, the twenty-ninth week of my pregnancy, I went into preterm labor. My OB-gyn at St. Victoria's Hospital in Marikina advised me it would improve my baby's chances of survival if we went to a bigger hospital such as the Manila Doctors or the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

She also told me that if my baby was alive at birth, he would likely need to stay at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for a month or two.

My husband and I were financially prepared for childbirth but not for a month's stay in the NICU. So we decided that our best option was the PGH charity ward.

(Image by Trixiedawnie via Wikimedia Commons)

Entering the OB Admitting Section

I was brought to the hospital by an Ace Cor ambulance. The ambulance nurse escorted me to the OB Admitting Section's (OBAS) examination area.

One look around confirmed what I already knew: this was not The Medical City.

My stretcher was parked beside the examination table. The intern asked me to move into it.

It was an uncovered, unmattressed slab of stainless steel. 

But here's the part that shocked me: the surface of the table I was asked to move onto was still stained with a four-inch-diameter splotch of someone else's dried blood.

At the ambulance, I had been mentally preparing myself for charity ward conditions. I knew I had to shed my finicky, nitpicky, microphobic tendencies.

Still, I don't think anything could have prepared me for this.

In my most quiet, unaccusing, almost-conspiratorial tone, I said to the intern, "Doctor, I am not complaining. I know this is the charity ward. Still, doesn't that blood stain heighten the risk for pathological cross-contamination?" (I wasn't even sure that was the right term, but it sounded right, so...)

The intern was friendly and candid. In a similarly conspiratorial tone, he answered, "The truth is, ma'am, we expect everyone here to be dirty anyway."

Thus began my one-and-a-half months in the PGH charity wards.

The OBAS Interns

The Ace Cor nurse was very kind. He went to the front desk, asked for a bottle of alcohol and a wad of cotton, and wiped the examination table clean. Only then did he allow me to move out of the stretcher. (Thank you, nurse!)

Then the interns began my physical examination and preparation for admission. One of them brought out a soft rubber tube.

"Mommy, I need to insert a catheter. This will hurt," the young doctor warned. "Take a deep breath."

I steeled myself, waiting for the pain to come.

"Okay, you can breathe now," she said.

Was she done? Where was the part that was supposed to hurt? I voiced out my puzzlement to the doctor.

"It didn't hurt?" Her tired face took on a smile.

But I don't think she could have been as happy or relieved as I was. A catheter insertion that did not hurt – and to think, she was just an intern.

That kid will make one heck of a consultant someday. I already loved her as she was.

I soon realized that this "not hurting" thing was pretty common in this place.

When they took my blood sample, it didn't hurt. When they did an internal examination (the dreaded IE), it did not hurt. They had to reinsert my intravenous (IV) line – it did not hurt (well, not as much as it usually does).

One idea began to grow in my mind: this place may not offer decent accommodations, but if your main concern is to be in the hands of world-class medical practitioners, this must be a good place to go.

After all, look at how good their interns are!

The amazing interns were done with their work. My drug allergies had been checked, and I had on my catheter and IV.

Next stop: the delivery room.

The Delivery Room

Before I was brought into the charity delivery room, the physician in charge told me, "Mommy, I must warn you. It's very crowded in there. Are you very sure you want to enter as a charity patient?"

I was sure. So they wheeled me in.

It was, to my surprise, a well-airconditioned room. There were many stretchers, but the room did not look half as crowded as I expected. I told that to the resident nearby.

"You have not seen the other section yet."

The other section was a sort of waiting room for

  • mothers who had already given birth, waiting either to be sent to be sent up to the OB ward for recuperation or to be discharged directly, and
  • mothers who were still waiting for their C-section schedule.
I was wheeled into the second section.

It was like a refugee camp. 

In one bed, you would find three people. Some women who had just undergone CS were sitting on plastic chairs. There was no place to lie down comfortably to take a nap.

Having undergone CS several times in the past, I could not help but gape in awe at these women. Despite being a CS "veteran," I still much preferred spending my first 24 post-operation hours flat on my back.

These women sat, stood, and walked. Everyone was barefoot. Slippers were not allowed.

Imagine women who had just given birth walking around barefoot. Going to the bathroom barefoot, stepping on a cold, wet, and dirty floor. 

Apparently, PGH does not believe in ge lai.

A Day at the OBAS

At the OBAS, it was very important that you knew the schedule of your meds. The nurses were so busy with so many patients, it was often up to you to remind them it was time for your next shot of dextromethorphan.

My adult diaper needed to be replaced. I informed the nurse. She gave me an adult diaper and left me to take off the old one and replace it with the new.

If your IV line stops dripping, nobody will ever notice. It's up to you to get up the nerve to approach a super-busy nurse and ask him or her to adjust it.

Don't be scared. As busy as they were, the nurses at the OBAS were, in fact, the least grouchy bunch of nurses I had seen in the 1.5 months I had stayed at the PGH.

By the way, I almost forgot to tell you about the OBAS beds. 

Like the examination table outside, the OBAS beds were unsheeted and unmattressed slabs of steel. There were no pillows and no blankets, but you are allowed to keep your own blanket if you had the foresight to bring one.

My husband had a friend who worked at PGH. The friend lent me a blanket. In that over-airconditioned place, I don't know how I would have fared without it.

My attending physician sent me to the ultrasound room so the radiologist could check the remaining volume of my leaking amniotic fluid. Another doctor wheeled me there. 

"This is the only hospital I know where the porters have a medical degree," I kidded. The doctor laughed.

Back at the OBAS, they checked my baby's heartbeat for the fifth time since I arrived over 24 hours ago. On the monitor, I watched as my baby's heart rate dropped below 120 ... below 90 ...

The medical intern beside me spurred into action. She started manipulating my cervix, pleading, "Wake up, baby. Wake up." 

Her alarmed tone caught the attention of the other medical staff. Soon there was a circle of very young doctors around my bed. 

For one reason or another, baby's heartbeat normalized eventually. The young doctors drifted back to their own business, but the intern who had been with me earlier stayed with her eyes glued to that monitor for about half an hour.

Then, at around 4:30 in the morning, she made a cellphone call to my attending physician, another medical intern, Dr. A*, who had just gone home for the day. 

"Nonreassuring fetal heart rate," I heard her say. "You need to come back now."

It was time for them to cut me open and bring the baby out.

CS Time

If there's one thing scarier than the thought of being cut open, it's the thought of being cut open by a very young doctor who has already been on sleepless duty for probably 48 hours and had just gone home hoping to get some sleep, only to be called back immediately so she can cut you open.

But all that fear was needless, because as you can see, I am alive and well. Thank you, doctors!

Now let's back up a little. Before they wheeled me into the operating room, I wondered aloud where the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) was.

The nurse chuckled at my naivete. He pointed to the narrow hall leading to the operating room. That, apparently, was what served as the PACU for the charity ward.

The operation went as it should, as far as I know. It was pure bliss to hear my 29-weeker wail as they took him out. When I heard that cry, I was satisfied. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

I woke up at the "PACU." There was nothing to do there, nothing to look at. So I went back to sleep.

The next time I opened my eyes, I was back at the "waiting room." Strangely, it was far less crowded now. Apparently, beds had been vacated at the ward upstairs, and mothers had either been transferred there or sent directly home.

My incision was starting to hurt. I asked the nurse for a pain killer but specifically asked for tramadol. I am allergic to ibuprofen, and on my last CS, I swore I would rather live with the pain of the incision than let anybody inject paracetamol into my veins again. That stuff burns!

The nurse came back with a syringe of paracetamol. I balked.

"Don't worry," she said. "I promise it won't hurt."

She inserted the needle. It did not hurt – yet.

And then she started to push the nasty liquid in. I winced and held my breath.

Something was wrong. The shot wasn't hurting. The evil paracetamol wasn't burning a trail down my arm veins. How was this possible?

Thirty seconds later, the nurse was still there. I realized she was slow-pushing the medicine. That's why it didn't hurt like before!

Bless you, nurse!

An hour or so later, I heard my name called. At last, I was to be transferred to the OB-Gyn charity ward upstairs.

Continued in Part II: The OB-Gyn Ward

*Name has been limited to a single initial to protect the individual's privacy

The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a work-at-home and homeschooling mom of five. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.

Sep 29, 2014

Kidz Gear Volume-Limiting Headphones: Protection for Our Kids' Ears [REVIEW]


Product Specifications

Maximum volume: 108dB 
Max. vol. with limiting cable: 88dB 
Cord length: 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) 
Speaker size: 30 mm 

Out of the Box

A pair of Kidz Gear Volume Limiting Headphones for Kids came in the mail today.



The kids eagerly tore into the box, and here's what came out:

Kidz Gear headphones (blue) and volume limit cord (black)
Of course, we all tried it out. (Even I did.) Since the kids weren't presentably dressed, here's a picture of their visiting cousin Zach Besin instead.

Comfort 

The tiny ear pieces felt a little strange on my ears, but they were comfortable and light – and soft!

They didn't press uncomfortably against my head (unlike my large headphones), so I think I'll be borrowing these for my own use once in a while. 

The headband length is adjustable, so it fits all head sizes.

Sound

We took turns listening to some songs from YouTube. The bass is pretty good!

Without the volume limiting cable, the sound can get pretty loud, but with the cable on, the volume is kept just below ear-piercing level. I never have to worry anymore if the kids have the volume on too high.

If you want to turn the volume down even more, it's easy and convenient with the volume-control dial.

Material

The product has so far been sturdy enough to withstand the chaos of my four kids and their cousin. They've been using it for three days now, and it's still in great condition.

A closer look at the headphones revealed very clean edges and snug connections. The plastic is flexible, not brittle. The parts are neatly screwed on to each other and not simply snapped on.

Availability

You will be pleasantly surprised to find that these headphones' suggested retail price is only P1,190.

It's very affordable, compared to the price of regular adult headphones of similar quality. And compared to the cost of good-quality hearing aids – which our kids will need if we don't protect their hearing this early – P1,190 looks like an excellent investment.

Kidz Gear Volume Limiting Headphones are locally available at Astroplus, Astrovision, Beyond the Box, and Digital Hub. Overseas shoppers can get their Kidz Gear Volume Limiting Headphones for Kids from Amazon.com.

To learn more about this product, check out its website, www.gearforkidz.com, or Like Kidz Gear on Facebook for updates.



DISCLOSURE: This is an unpaid review. A sample of the product was provided for free for review purposes.

The Nanay Notebook is written by Blessie Adlaon, a work-at-home and homeschooling mom of four. Check out our About page to know more about this blog's author and our policies on advertising, press releases, and reposting.