Angels Breastmilk Bank: The Power to Save Lives

We are all very much aware of the importance of breast milk and how essential it is for newborns to receive the benefits this “liquid gold” contains, especially in baby’s first weeks of life. Although the ability to feed one’s baby at the breast does not usually dictate the survival of one’s child, for this particular mother, it did.

Adult and pediatric speech therapist Rosanna Henares Angeles is founder of Angels Breastmilk Bank for the Premature, an advocacy that provides free breastmilk for mothers who aren’t able to produce enough milk for their babies.

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How Angels Breastmilk Bank Was Born

Rosanna went into premature labor with her first child. Without mincing words, her Neonatal Specialist grimly informed her that baby boy Uno would not make it unless she could provide breast milk for him in those crucial hours after his birth.

Rosanna recounts, “I was very stressed and so was unable to produce milk. Uno weighed only 1.2 kg and the musculature around his mouth was quite underdeveloped, so he could not muster the strength needed to suckle. I saw his complexion literally turn from white to black as he lay in a NICU incubator in front of me. After calling for help, I was immediately wheeled out and then I heard the nurse calling for a priest!”

In tears, feeling desperate and helpless, Rosanna recalls her doctor telling her that the best thing she could do was to leave Uno and pump out as much breast milk as she could. A cousin who had just given birth then offered to send over some of her extra breast milk. This helped Uno over the first of many hurdles he was yet to face.

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The Miracle of Sharing

In the midst of it all, another doctor in the NICU asked Rosanna if she could spare some milk for another preemie baby. “Her name was Isa,” Rosanna shares; “and she was in the crib next to my Uno. She weighed just six hundred grams! How could I not share what little milk I had with her?” Rosanna says she “begrudgingly” gave Isa some of the milk. “I felt so guilty about it, and then a few hours later a miracle happened! A childhood friend, Carmela Lee, called out of the blue to ask how my pregnancy was going. I told her that I had delivered prematurely and decided to ask if she had any excess breast milk (she had just given birth to her fourth child). I’ll never forget her reply—‘I can fill a lake, Rosanna,’ she said.”

After that, friends and family continued to send breast milk to Rosanna, and she in turn did what now comes naturally to her. “I decided to try and connect those mothers in need of breast milk with those who were willing to share their abundant blessing. Uno was born 17 years ago and I have continued with this advocacy ever since.”

Paying It Forward

Rosanna humbly diminishes her all-important role in what most often is a dire situation for both mother and child. “I’m really just the broker of the milk; it’s the moms that do all the work.” But what she does has empowered not just those mothers (particularly, the underprivileged) whose children need the precious breast milk, but she’s given moms who are willing to share their abundant supply of “liquid gold”, the power to save lives.

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If you are in need of breastmilk for your baby or would like to donate, here’s how the breast milk exchange works:

● Call Rosanna Henares Angeles of the Angels Breastmilk Bank for the Premature at (0917) 846-4987.

● You will be interviewed regarding details of delivery, health of child, manner of delivery, number of weeks, any complications during delivery, and amount of breastmilk needed per day.

● Address and directions to Angels Breastmilk Bank for the Premature will be given.

● Ask your pediatrician for a prescription for non-pasteurized breastmilk.

About the Contributor

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Risa Regala Garcia writes about food, family - the travails of parenting and the challenges of supporting ageing parents- and the bittersweet moments of midlife when the joys and fears of our childhood resurface. 

To read her work is to step back into a simpler time, when a pink blanket could ward off night time ghouls and a grandmother’s kitschy decor could entertain an imaginative child for hours.