Sep 15, 2016

How Do You Start Homeschooling?

An old classmate messaged me today. She saw my post about homeschooling and got interested because her son was being bullied in school, and his study habits and grades were taking a turn for the worse.


A child being bullied is like a trapped rabbit cornered by predators. He hasn’t got the strength to fight, and he is unable to take flight either.

He can either pretend to be dead or get eaten alive.

Those of us who survived bullying did so by pretending to be dead.

It’s totally unfair. Why must children be forced to endure persecution that is considered totally unacceptable when applied to adults?

When adults get bullied at the workplace, they can fight back. They are, after all, much more capable of standing up for themselves.

If they are unable to fight, they take flight instead by finding another job somewhere else and leaving the toxic work environment.

Not so for children.

When children get bullied, they have neither recourse to fight or take flight. Fight and they get punished by the system. As for flight -- seriously? Resignation is not an option in schools, and parents seldom consider taking the child out of a school “just because he’s being bullied.”

So the poor kid is forced to bear it. Pretend to be dead. Of course his school performance suffers. You can’t pretend to be dead and get A’s at the same time.

Starting Homeschooling

So back to my schoolmate’s question: “How do I start homeschooling?”

Most homeschoolers begin by enrolling in a program that gives them a curriculum and lesson plans to follow.

The program my family used was Kolbe Academy. There are others as well, such as Seton, The Master’s Academy, and Catholic Filipino Academy, but we chose Kolbe because I like their principle of subsidiarity, which allows parents to adapt the curriculum to better suit their family’s needs.

Many homeschoolers stick with their program and curriculum their entire schooling life.

But not all of us do that.

Some homeschoolers begin adapting their curriculum and giving their children more and more freedom towards self-led study, until they are no longer getting curricula from providers.

Nevertheless, they continue enrolling with providers for the sake of documentation of their child’s schooling.

One homeschool provider that offers this documentation-only service is Home Life Academy.

There are also families that completely forgo annual registrations and simply let the child take the Department of Education’s Accreditation and Equivalency exam, which grants the child an elementary or high school diploma upon passing.

This is the route we are planning to take for our kids. And if our eldest passes the elementary test next year, I might let him take the high school test the year after that.

Hypothetically, he could go to college at 14. But whether that is a good thing for him is still something my husband and I will have to think about.

If you want to learn more about homeschooling, there is a Philippine Homeschool Conference that is held every year in Metro Manila. This year, it will be on October 22, 2016, at SM Aura Premier. Visit their Facebook page to learn more.

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.

Sep 7, 2016

What Can You Do to Help Your Preemie Survive?

[Image by ceejayoz
via Wikimedia Commons]
In 2015, when I gave birth to my son at 29 weeks, only one thought kept running through my head: “What can I do to help my baby survive?”

It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re a preemie’s parent. You see that the doctors and nurses are already doing everything they can do for your child. What more could you possibly contribute?

But there are some things only we parents – not the doctors and nurses – can do to improve our preemie’s chances of survival.

Here are some steps you can take to help your preemie survive:

1. Know the enemy: nosocomial infection

Once your baby receives oxygen support and intravenous fluids, the rest of it begins to look mostly like just a waiting game: Wait for the lungs to develop. Wait for the baby to reach normal birth weight. Then get discharged and go home.

But one thing can and will change that waiting game into a bloody medical battle. The doctors call it nosocomial infection; in non-medicalese, it is hospital-acquired infection, one of fate’s cruelest ironies.

Hospital germs are like the Olympic medalists of the germ world. These are the germs that have survived disinfectants, ultraviolet treatments, and ordinary antibiotic drugs that have eradicated lesser germs.

If our babies get infected with germs from the hospital, the battle will be fought with the most powerful (and expensive) antibiotics our doctors have in their arsenal.

Sometimes, these antibiotics are still not enough to save the baby’s life.

Therefore, our number 1 goal is to protect our babies from hospital-acquired infection. The next steps talk about how to do that.

2. Provide your own fresh unpasteurized breastmilk

At the NICU, from what I observed, the milk bank receives supplied or donated breastmilk, puts the milk together in an anonymous communal stock, and then the nurses feed the babies from this anonymous supply.

Of course, this communal stock needs to be pasteurized.

Pasteurization is good because it kills germs that may come from the donor mother.

However, pasteurization also injures some of the immunological components of breastmilk. As a result, your child gets less protective benefit from pasteurized milk than from fresh unpasteurized milk.1

To give my baby maximum protection from nosocomial infection, I asked the doctors and nurses not to give my baby milk from the pasteurized stock.

Instead, I expressed fresh milk for him every feeding time.

During the times when I had to go home, I made sure I left enough milk right inside my baby’s bassinet and endorsed the milk to the nurse.

In case I had to be away for more than 8 hours, I also left a bag of milk in the freezer, clearly labeled with my baby’s name, and endorsed that to the nurse as well.

After my baby had received the milk he needed, the rest of the milk was sent to the communal supply.

3. Protect your breastmilk from hospital germs

It is likely that the hospital has a breast pump you can use to express milk for your baby.

Avoid using it if you can.

Remember, this is a pump that many other mothers use. You do not know the health conditions of the mothers who used the pump before you.

Also, does the hospital sanitize the pump each time an individual uses it? I don’t know – do you?

To ensure that my milk did not get contaminated, I hand expressed directly into a sterile disposable milk bag.

Hand expression is ideal because hands are far easier to sanitize than any pump in the world. If your hands are unsoiled, a good rub with alcohol solution is all you need.2

The Marmet hand expression video tutorials can help you get started with hand expressing your milk. Eventually you can modify the technique into what works best for you.

Now if you really prefer to use a breast pump, I would recommend you bring your own. A manual pump is a good option because it operates almost soundlessly and never needs to be plugged or recharged. (Some hospitals might not allow you to plug in your pump.)

If you must use the hospital’s pump, bring your own connectors and milk collection bottles, at the very least. Avoid using the connectors that everyone else uses.

Bring milk bags as well for storing your milk, and have a permanent marker on hand to label the bag with your baby’s name and the time that the milk was expressed.

Do not leave your non-disposable bottles at the hospital’s milk bank freezer. Bottles that are left in a communal freezer could disappear, never to be seen again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If you have problems expressing enough breastmilk for your baby, do not hesitate to seek the help of a lactation counselor.

One that I have worked with and highly recommend is Abby Yabot, a Philippine General Hospital (PGH)–certified lactation counselor. She regularly holds breastfeeding talks at The Parenting Emporium. You can reach her by calling/texting 0917-5614366.

4. Do kangaroo mother care.

Kangaroo mother care (KMC) was taught to me by my baby’s attending physician, Dr. D. She and the nurses of the PGH were huge advocates of it, and it is easy to understand why.

KMC is a lifesaver for preemie babies.

This practice of carrying your baby skin-to-skin for extended periods of time (4 to 23.5 hours per day) has been proven to
  • reduce the risk of nosocomial infection,
  • lower the chances of hospital readmission,
  • facilitate exclusive breastfeeding,
  • soothe baby’s pain from hospital procedures, and
  • help keep the baby warm.3
KMC reduces nosocomial infection because, rather than exposing the baby to the super-germ–laden hospital environment for extended periods of time, KMC surrounds the baby with the mother’s far-gentler bacterial environment instead.

Another crucial KMC benefit is that it keeps the baby warm.

When babies are cold, their bodies are forced to expend more calories to keep them warm or they will die from hypothermia.

But you don’t want your baby to waste calories on generating body heat. You want your baby to use calories to gain weight and escape from the scary NICU as soon as possible.

KMC uses the mother’s body heat to warm the baby, so baby can preserve his own calories and dedicate all of them to gaining those precious pounds.

Because the PGH recognizes how important and beneficial KMC is, they allow a mother or father doing KMC to stay with their child way beyond visitation hours.

By doing KMC, I was able to stay with my baby for 32 hours at a time, so I could also closely monitor his feeding and his IV drip, soothe him when they took blood samples or did transfusions, and just talk to him, letting him know he was not alone and that he was loved.

5. Get hold of a supplemental nursing system.

A supplemental nursing system (SNS) is basically a milk reservoir with one end of a long, soft, thin tube attached to its opening. The other end of the tube is placed inside your baby’s mouth while the baby is breastfeeding or finger feeding.

Finger feeding is technique used to correct poor latch. We let baby suck on our finger while we use that same finger to guide baby’s tongue into its proper latch position.

When baby sucks on our nipple or finger with the SNS tube in position, the resulting vacuum pulls milk from the receptacle and into the tube, which then delivers the milk to your baby’s mouth.

The SNS is used to train preemies to breastfeed. This training is important because, even after babies have attained their required weight, doctors will still not discharge them from the NICU if they have not acquired a “good suck.”

The problem is, preemies aren’t very good at direct breastfeeding. My preemie, for instance, would just suckle a little and then fall asleep. He also had the bad habit of keeping his tongue up, so he was unable to achieve a good latch.

That’s why we had to do finger feeding before we could feed directly from the breast.

The SNS lets our babies get milk while sucking on our finger, so they learn to associate sucking with feeding.

At the breast, the SNS allows baby to get more milk. This prevents baby from falling asleep after just a few sucks.

Click here for a video on how one mom uses the SNS.

Click here to read more SNS tips from another mom.

The Medela SNS is available at The Parenting Emporium. Ask about it by contacting 0917-5614366.

6. Apply virgin coconut oil on your preemie's skin.

In 2015, a study showed that coconut oil applied on the skin of very low birth weight infants significantly reduced the degree of water loss compared to those who did not have coconut oil applied to their skin.

While those who were given coconut oil only lost an average of 3.48 g/m2 of water per hour, those who did not receive the oil lost 10.15 g/m2 of water per hour.4

Why does water loss through the skin matter?

Among babies born with normal weight, water lost through the skin is not an issue.

But among preemies, the evaporation of water through the skin causes the babies’ bodies to lose heat.5

We have already discussed why it is so important for preemies to preserve their body heat: they need to preserve their calories to attain optimal weight gain. We don’t want them to waste calories in producing body heat.

Aside from calorie preservation, the application of coconut oil on baby’s skin has another benefit, which is directly related to our avoidance of nosocomial infection.

In the same 2015 study, the researchers found that the babies who received coconut oil had only 20% bacterial growth on their skin, while the other babies had 60%.4

A separate study6 found that the rate of hospital-acquired infection among preterm infants who had coconut oil applied to their skin twice a day was only 39.5 per 1000 patient days, compared to 219.1 per 100 days among those who did not receive topical coconut oil.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, and I am definitely not your preemies doctor. Before you do anything with your preemie, make sure you get your neonatologist’s go-signal. A practice that has been beneficial for one baby may, due to differing circumstances, be harmful to another.

I wish the best for you and your preemie. If you need somebody to talk with who will understand what you’re going through, feel free to email me at

  1. Wight NE. Donor human milk for preterm infants. J Perinatol. 2001;21(4):249–254. Available from:
  2. Santacatalina Mas R, Peix Sagues MT, Miranda Salmeron J, et al. Surgical hand washing: handscrubbing or handrubbing [in Spanish]. Rev Enferm. 2016;39:8-16. Available from:
  3. Boundy EO, Dastjerdi R, Spiegelman D, et al. Kangaroo mother care and neonatal outcomes: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2016;137:e20152238. Available from:
  4. Nangia S, Paul VK, Deorari AK, et al. Topical oil application and trans-epidermal water loss in preterm very low birth weight infants—a randomized trial. J Trop Pediatr. 2015;61(6):414–420. Available from:
  5. Rutter N, Hull D. Water loss from the skin of term and preterm babies. Arch Dis Child. 1979;54(11):858–868. Available from:
  6. Salam RA, Darmstadt GL, Bhutta ZA. Effect of emollient therapy on clinical outcomes in preterm neonates in Pakistan: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2015;100(3);F210–F215. Available from:
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.

Aug 22, 2016

Medela Swing Maxi versus Medela Freestyle: Which Breast Pump Should I Choose?

A few months ago, for a short while, I took a break from my regular editing-writing profession and took on work as events coordinator at The Parenting Emporium, a parent-and-child–oriented store, events venue, and community.

One of our best-selling products there were Medela breastpumps, specifically, the Medela Freestyle and the Medela Swing Maxi.

Now these are two very similar pumps, that is, they are both double electric breastpumps.

Therefore, a very frequent dilemma among our customers was, "Which one should I get?"

The Medela Freestyle and the Medela Swing Maxi
The Medela Freestyle (left) and the Medela Swing Maxi (right)

How They're The Same

The Freestyle and the Swing Maxi are both heavy duty pumps, with heavy duty motors and heavy duty membranes.

In other words, if you take away all the trimmings, they are exactly the same.

At this point, I will digress a little and talk about the regular Swing, with which the Swing Maxi is often confused.

The regular Swing is a single pump. It can only pump one breast at a time.

The Swing Maxi is designed to pump from two breasts at the same time.

The regular Swing is designed for occasional use. The Swing Maxi is designed for daily, round-the-clock use. (You will notice that the Swing Maxi has bigger, thicker, sturdier-looking membranes than the regular Swing.)

The Medela Swing and the Medela Swing Maxi
The Medela Swing (left) and the Medela Swing Maxi (right)

So if you need a heavy duty pump to express enough milk to feed your baby while you're at work, the regular Swing is not the pump for you. What you need is a Swing Maxi – or a Freestyle.

Now back to the original question: which should you get?

Rechargeable Batteries

The biggest difference between the Freestyle and the Swing Maxi is that the former has an in-built rechargeable battery; the latter does not.

So if you're going to pump only at the office, and your office has an accessible plug for your pump, the Swing Maxi is quite sufficient for your purposes.

HOWEVER, if you plan to pump in the car or at the mall's lactation station, where access to electric outlets is not available or allowed or provided, you need a Freestyle.

Note: the Swing Maxi does give the option of battery power. It has a slot for six AAA batteries, and those would provide enough power for approximately three pumping sessions.

If you expect to need batteries only occasionally, that  may be enough for you as well.

There are also rechargeable AAA batteries. The Parenting Emporium recommends a certain brand; ask them what it is via 0917-5614366.

Expect to shell out P2,000 total for the set of rechargeable batteries plus charger. But between the two of us, I had a hard time finding that set.


One way of looking at the Swing Maxi is that it's a basic version of the Freestyle: It pumps your milk powerfully, efficiently, every day – nothing more, nothing less.

The Freestyle, on the other hand, includes a bunch of other stuff that every pumping mother would find really convenient:
  • Timer: How long have you been pumping? Have you been at it for 15 minutes already? I hope you didn't forget to check the time when you started. The Swing Maxi won't tell you how long you've been pumping – but, with its built-in timer, the Freestyle will.
  • Cooler. So you're done pumping. Where do you store the milk? When you buy a Freestyle, the set comes with a free cooler bag and ice pack, so your milk stays cool and fresh until you get home.
  • Extra bottles. The Swing Maxi comes with two bottles. The Freestyle comes with four. The abovementioned cooler pack can hold four bottles.
  • Carry-all tote. The Freestyle also comes with a chic black tote bag that you can use to carry your pump to work. 
Of course, if you buy a Swing Maxi, you can still buy the cooler bag, tote bag, and extra bottles separately. Text 0917-5614366 to find out how much each of these cost.

What you can never buy separately are the timer and the rechargeable battery.

Other Perks 

The Parenting Emporium is the main distributor of Medela pumps in the Philippines. It is located at 29 1st Street, New Manila, Quezon City.

When you buy items collectively worth P10,000 or above from The Parenting Emporium (this includes the Freestyle or Swing Maxi, since their prices range from P10k up), you automatically become a member of the TPE Loyalty Program. Members get free (or heavily discounted) seats at various parenting classes held every weekend at the store. These classes cover topics such as breastfeeding, weaning, positive discipline, homeschooling, yaya training, etc.

If your pump breaks within the warranty period, The Parenting Emporium will replace it, not repair it, no questions asked.

The Parenting Emporium is open from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM, Monday to Saturday, and some Sundays as well. They also occasionally have pop-up stores in Makati for those who live in or near the south.

You can follow The Parenting Emporium on Facebook or Instagram to keep updated with their products, classes, and store schedules.


The Parenting Emporium firmly advocates direct breastfeeding of the child for the first six months of life.

However, it understands that some mothers need to return to work less than six months after childbirth. That is normally where breast pumps come into the picture.

Breast pumps are meant to assist, not replace, direct breastfeeding.

When milk is expressed, it is ideally fed to the child via cup by another caregiver, to avoid nipple confusion.

When the mother is present, the child should feed directly from the mother's breast.

Direct breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at the start. In fact, as somebody who has continuously breastfed for 11 years, I would attest that it made me scream with pain at the beginning, and I had to express at times to give my left breast some time to heal.

My right breast gave me no problems whatsoever. After a few weeks, nursing at my left breast wasn't so bad anymore either. (But yes, it did take a few weeks. And yes, I was able to do it for eleven years.)

A lactation counselor can be a big help in making breastfeeding less painful. You can text The Parenting Emporium at 0917-5614366 to set an appointment with a PGH-certified lactation counselor.

It's not as expensive as you may imagine it to be. A movie date and dinner afterwards will cost you more. No investment you have ever or will ever make costs so little but gives back so much.

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 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 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.

  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:[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:
  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:
  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:
  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:
  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:
  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:
  9. Mylonas C, Kouretas D. Lipid peroxidation and tissue damage. In vivo. 1998 Dec;13(3):295-309. Available from:
  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:
  11. Raguindin PF, Dans LF, King JF. Moringa oleifera as a galactagogue. Breastfeeding Medicine. June 2014;9(6). Available from:

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

By Bobjgalindo via Wikipedia
[Image by Bobjgalindo via Wikipedia. This is not what the PGH NICU looks like.]
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."

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.