Jul 30, 2014
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Moms Talk: Is it Safe to Share Breast Milk?

Patch's Mom Council weighs in on the idea of feeding infants breast milk from another woman.

Moms Talk: Is it Safe to Share Breast Milk?

Mothers are using social media sites, such as the Facebook page Human Milk 4 Human Babies—Minnesota, to find or share their breast milk with other mothers.

While the FDA issued a warning against mothers sharing milk via the Internet—stating that the milk was likely not screened properly for diseases and contamination or properly collected and stored—many mothers do so anyway. Many times those who seek breast milk from others believe in its great benefits, but are unable to breast-feed or produce enough milk to sustain their baby.

Patch asked its Moms Council to weigh in on whether or not it was safe in their eyes to share breast milk with other mothers:

Sarah Schweitzer, Richfield/Edina

"As an expectant mom, I understand the benefits of breastfeeding. I also understand that some women cannot for medical reasons, or simply have a difficult time making enough milk. If I find myself unable to breast feed, I would not feel comfortable getting breast milk from someone else and giving it to my baby. The risks of giving my baby untested breast milk from a stranger outweigh the benefits in my opinion. Many babies are given formula from they day they are born and grow up to be healthy, happy kids."

Robin Marty, Fridley

"As the mother of a four month old who loves to eat, I find myself constantly wishing that , both for the sake of convenience and our family budget. The 30 plus ounces of formula Bass eats daily starts to take a toll on the pocket book, and there's nothing worse than the moment of terror when you realize you're away from home without a bottle, and your child could go off like a screaming, starving bomb at any moment.

"I've come to terms with being a formula feeder, and though I would have (and honestly tried to) jump through any hoop to have been able to provide my own milk for my child, the idea of donor milk, well, honestly it makes me pretty uncomfortable.

"Inherently, the risks of donor milk is pretty low, and for women who have premature babies, the immunities provided in milk is the best foot up for healthy growth and development. With a system in place for screening donors, there's no reason to worry about any sort of contaminant, and in many ways the milk would be much safer even than formula, which has been known to have some contamination issues of its own.

"The idea of milk from another mother is nothing new. After all, wet nurses are practically the oldest profession there is. Even now you can purchase human breast milk for your child, as Neil Patrick Harris and his partner are doing for one of their twins, although he quips that it "costs more than sushi." It's natural, all the hip stars are doing it, so why do I still feel like somehow it's just...Icky?

"It's pasteurized. It's screened. It's got antibodies that formula just can't replicate.  But given the option, knowing that this would be a permanent issue rather than a short term solution while helping a preemie grow or dealing with a short term health problem of my own that would cause a breast-feeding hiatus, I'd probably still stick with my formula. For one thing, financially it's an even greater burden than what I am already facing.  But for another, I guess the benefits just can't quite outweigh that gross out factor I can't let go of.

"Now, once the genetically modified cows are fully producing, then we may have to talk."

Lisa Buck, Orono

"I breast-fed three of our kids, but never had enough milk to share. I didn't produce enough milk so I had to see a lactation consultant and ultimately decided to supplement with formula. Didn't feel guilty at all, but glad that they were getting some breast milk."

Christina Barberot, St. Louis Park

"I wouldn't do it. I think if you can't or do not want to nurse, go with formula. There are many choices, there is quality control, and it contains vitamins and nutrients. 
Lactation looses it's value if the mother is not ingesting the right foods—and how would you know what the donor had eaten or drank? And there is the whole issue of hind-milk, and the baby gets different nutrients at different stages from breast milk. Nature has a program, and this seems to mess with it. I think formula would be a safer alternative."

Katelynn Metz, Minnetonka Patch Editor

"I would never share breast milk—ever. Let's remember that just as breast milk is made up of all the nutrients from a mom, it's also made up of all the toxins too—like alcohol and junk food. I can't guarantee that a person from whom I get breast milk for my baby hasn't had a bunch of booze, McDonald's or even crack cocaine in the 24 hours before they pump out the breast milk. And without knowing 100 percent that the milk is safe, I think it is foolish and dangerous to give it to your child.

"I wonder if the moms who do this would ever find a stranger on the Internet, then allow this stranger to watch their infant for 24 hours? I bet not. What's the difference here? The fact is that the benefits of breast milk just don't outweigh the risks of feeding your child something that's potentially dangerous. Besides, these days formula has all the vitamins and nutrients that babies need.

"If a mom can't or doesn't want to nurse her child, she should never feel like she's a bad mom for giving the baby formula. In my experience, motherhood has so much room for guilt, why start on day one with nursing? We got the rest of our lives to feel like we let down our kids in some way!"

Do you having something to say on this issue? Tell us in the comments section below.

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The goal of the council is to explore topics of interest to moms—and dads— everywhere, then produce informative features for Patch readers, like you. If you’re interested in joining the council, please say so in the comments section below, or send an e-mail to your local Patch editor.

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