Breast milk has always been unanimously advocated by health experts and professionals around the world as the perfect food for babies, with a multitude of nutritional benefits.
Apart from providing nutrition and maintaining hygiene, feeding babies breast milk is known to help them fight off viruses and bacteria. This is especially crucial in light of the COVID-19 pandemic where mothers hope to protect their babies—though there is currently lack of evidence if breast milk does prevent COVID-19 infection in babies.
Thus, when the Malaysia movement control order (MCO) was put in place (and extended), Malaysian mums residing in Singapore found themselves in a sticky situation where they were unable to transport breast milk to their babies back home.
The overlap of the ‘circuit breaker’ in Singapore only intensified the mums’ worries, making it impossible for them to make the weekly trip across the causeway.
Unable to transport frozen breast milk back home
Despite the mums’ desire to be with their children, securing their livelihood was also of top priority with the economic downturn due to COVID-19.
One such mum is Christina Lye, mother of a three-month-old baby, whom she left behind in Johor Bahru to work in Singapore.
In an interview with CNA, Lye said that her baby was “born with a lung infection and was prescribed antibiotics for five days after his birth”. She had resorted to feeding him breast milk in hopes to boost his immune system.
With no way to transport breast milk back, her baby had to make do with formula milk which he “spits up more” compared to breast milk, according to the 28-year-old’s mother-in-law who takes care of her baby.
Over 350 Malaysian mums in a difficult situation
Other Malaysian mums have also found themselves in a similar predicament as Lye, with depleting frozen breast milk supplies back home, and pain from being separated from their children.
It was revealed that more than 350 Malaysian mothers had been affected by this situation after a mum, who goes by Mrs Tee, had created a Facebook group in hopes to “pool their ideas and possible resources together”, according to CNA.
She met these mums in the process of joining “every logistics and carpooling Facebook group” to the best of her ability and calling up “some 15 freight forwarders” in attempts to find a solution to send her breast milk back to her six-month-old baby in Selangor.
Her efforts came to naught due to costly fees, among other reasons—with the eventual tightening of Singapore’s border control taking away the last ray of hope.
Over 350 Malaysian mums came together in efforts to get their frozen breast milk sent back home, together with the help of Johor’s Stulang assemblyman Andrew Chen Kah Eng and his contacts. | Photo: Andrew Chen Kah Eng / Facebook
A silver lining: frozen breast milk delivered to babies
Having over 350 mummies to manage in the group, Tee was given a newfound sense of responsibility.
The silver lining came when one of the mums reached out to Johor’s Stulang assemblyman Andrew Chen Kah Eng for help in transporting frozen breast milk across the causeway.
The first shipment included 30 boxes of breast milk, weighing 600kg. They were sent to Chen’s office on 8 April and were delivered shortly to babies in Johor Bahru.
For the second shipment however, a cold room was arranged by Chen and his contacts for mums to drop off their frozen breast milk. Safe distancing measures had to be adhered to while doing so.
Dropping off frozen breast milk to be shipped to JB. | Photo: Andrew Chen Kah Eng / Facebook
A total of 118 boxes of breast milk, weighing 2,300kg were transported to a cold room in JB from Singapore via a refrigerator truck, later distributed to the respective babies. They were said to be “as far as Perak, Penang and Kedah”.
Transport frozen breast milk through volunteers and people in the logistics industry. | Photo: Andrew Chen Kah Eng / Facebook
Chen arranged for a cold room to store the breast milk in JB after the boxes arrived from Singapore. | Photo: Andrew Chen Kah Eng / Facebook
It is the first time such huge scale transportation of frozen breast milk has taken place, and the added challenge came with preventing the breast milk from thawing completely, said Chen.
Thankfully with the help of Chen’s contacts—volunteers and people in the logistics industry—the operation was a success.
This brings hope to mums out there who have been separated from their babies.
Eunice Teo, mum of four-month-old baby girl is still waiting for her turn to send frozen breast milk back.
“Any small chance (that will allow me to send back breast milk), I want to try,” she said.
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