Not a while ago, I witnessed a couple of moms sharing their milk with another mom in a breastfeeding support group, who had failed to produce enough for her baby.
From wet nurses, decades ago, we have evolved into new practices. Nowadays, with the popular informal milk sharing Facebook groups, moms can share their milk for free. I can’t imagine how grateful I would be with the woman who would share her precious liquid to help my child.
Yet, respectful institutions like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the FDA, strongly discourage this practice. The concern about the risk of communicable diseases, the possible content of traces of drugs or unsafe medications in the milk, or the presence of bacteria due to inadequate hygiene measures taken during milk storage, is not a small thing. A mother who’s desperate to feed her child might not be aware that all of these conditions. Even coming from a well-intentioned mother can put baby in a health risk.
On the other hand, the only safe option to access human donor milk is through a milk bank. But they are such a few, with limited resources, and most of the times, their milk is destined to very sick or premature babies. Leaving a whole population of mothers with mild or severe supply problems, out of their scope, and hopeless. Thus, the option of a friend or a stranger offering her milk might be seen quite attractive after all.
It is a hard debate, and not so easy to solve. I wish there were more milk banks, and we could buy human milk in the supermarket too. For now, I can only add my little sand grain; so here it goes… I don’t oppose the idea of donating your milk directly to another mother in need. I cannot discourage you from keeping giving your child human milk by any mean. I think this practice reflexes the generosity and support of women in general. But it won’t hurt to ask your donor for a blood test and a health report from her doctor. And for sure won’t hurt to ask how she’s storing the milk, to make sure she’s doing it under proper safe and hygienic conditions. If we all -donors and recipients- acknowledge these safety standard measures, we can diminish the risks and keep raising healthy children.