Something really great happened today.  I had a grandmother of a baby who suffered birth asphyxia ask if I could help her find some more milk for her baby.  I am not sure why the mother isn’t here at the hospital*, but the grandmother has been dutifully caring for her baby, giving the infant frequent feedings through a nasogastric tube as he emerges from a coma.  The baby is making great progress, but his family lives far away and the grandmother was totally out of money.  Could I help her keep her baby alive by providing a little formula?

In the past the answer to this question would virtually always be “No” – unless I wanted to walk down the block and purchase some formula myself.  Not exactly a sustainable solution.  The total lack of formula in our hospital was something I discussed with local and remote leadership until I was blue in the face, but it never seemed to go anywhere.  Everyone agreed that feeding babies who didn’t have milk was important, but nobody wanted – or seemed to be able – to be the one to do anything about it.  

So today I asked the nurses whether we had any milk to provide this baby.  (I already knew the answer – we didn’t. I had gone out twice over the weekend to buy formula already.)  The nurse replied that “Dokte Sara” would have to go ask the depot herself.  The depot is the warehouse on the hospital campus where all of our supplies are stocked.  So I marched downstairs, and found my way to the depot on what I was sure was a fool’s errand.  Last year I’d asked the depot for formula on countless occasions – only once, when we had a baby who was abandoned at the hospital, did they provide even a single can.  They had informed me how expensive formula was, and asked me not to make the request again.  

I got to the depot, asked whether we had formula, and they said “Yes, of course.” as though it was no big deal! They reminded me that I would need to provide the patient’s information and justification for why we were providing formula, and told me they would dispense two cans of formula per request – one for the patient to use and one to keep as backup in case the patient ran out while the depot was closed.  Each time a patient needs a new can I will need to make a new request, but they said even if it is a long hospitalization, they can provide milk for those patients in need.  

I nearly pinched myself in disbelief – I was sure they were joking, but moments later one of the guys emerged with my two cans of formula, and I was off to the ward!  Part of me thinks it is sad that I’m so excited about something that should be such a basic part of providing care for children, but this was such a huge battle to get the hospital to recognize that we were obliged to provide food for our littlest patients.  I’m not sure what finally changed to create this shift, but whatever it is I’m extremely glad for it.  What a great day!


*If I had to guess why the mom is not present, here are a few theories: she might be at home caring for her other children, she could be ill, she might still be recovering from her child’s delivery, or she could be working.  It does not seem to be a given that mothers will accompany their babies to the hospital here.  

Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Uncle Dick

     /  January 15, 2013

    Thanks for sharing that story Sara I’m not surprised that you would do everything you could to get that baby some food keep up the good work.

    Uncle Dick

  2. Mom

     /  January 15, 2013

    Good for you, Sara! It must make you so happy to see some good changes that you pushed so hard to accomplish. Even with your not being there for 6 months, it sounds as if a lot of your ideas have been implemented. Gotta make you feel proud.
    Love, the proud Mom

  3. Laura

     /  January 16, 2013

    I find it sad how exciting I find this post. And yet sad at the same time. Milk in my world is such a basic thing. I got to the storeroom and grab some if the the infant is getting formula. Or if we want breast milk and mom isn’t pumping at all or not enough pharmacy sends down some donor milk. And for those infants that can’t tolerate either of those, the enteral feeds department will mix up some Neocate or other really basic formula. I can’t imagine the expense for just feeding infants every day. It is such a basic part of nursing care and I’m glad it has finally caught up down there.

    Now I could do with the some of the mother here learning a bit about priorities. Such as those who don’t have a WIC appointment in a timely fashion after discharge and ask you to provide formula for their kid because “how can I afford that?” while texting on their I-phone…

    But perhaps I am a bit jaded after years of NICU work…

    Again I am so excited for your find and your persistence in walking down to the Depot just in case….

    • You are working in another world there at the big G. 🙂
      The milk thing is still such an issue, but yes – having formula helps a ton. Next on my wish list is breast pumps – even some manual ones would be better than nothing!


Leave a Reply to Mom Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: