Parenting: Another alternative to breastfeeding

Friday, June 18, 2010

A few months ago I did a story on breastfeeding. The story got a lot of hits on and received about 50 comments. It's obviously a topic people, especially women, are very sensitive to and for good reason.

In my piece I talked about the pressures mothers feel to breastfeed when sometimes, it's just not physically or logistically possible. I recently came across an interesting article that addressed the increase in demand for alternative sources for breast milk. In other words, more and more women who can't breastfeed for one reason or a another are turning to breast milk banks to feed their infants.

Banks take donations from mothers who have pumped extra milk, and combine and pasteurize it to provide milk for babies in need. I actually met a nurse who overproduced when she had her little girl and donated her milk to a bank. According to the Human Milk Bank Association of America, it's demand as increased fourfold from 2000 to 2009. Of course, all the milk that is donated is rigorously screened for infectious diseases and bacteria.

Now, most of this increase is attributed to doctors who request the milk for premature babies in the neonatal unit. However, many parents who can't breastfeed on their own, or who have an infant who is allergic to formula, turn to the milk banks.

Getting milk from the milk banks can be extremely pricey. So some are checking out a website called Here's an excerpt from the "About us" section:

    "Numerous breastfeeding women are willing to graciously offer their extra milk supply to your child(ren). The key is finding those women and we hope that our site will serve as a portal to locate both donors and recipients alike. The vast majority of babies have some allergy to baby formulas and there is simply no question that breast milk provides superior nutritional value. If you choose to engage in private milk donation, we believe that it can be done just as safely as with milk banks. Do your research, know your donors (have them tested), have a pediatrician who supports your choice and will help you to screen your donors. Never chance putting your child at risk. There is a smart way to share milk and it is worth the effort involved."
Many experts warn however though, that giving your baby breast milk that is unscreened can be very dangerous. The website does strongly suggest donors get screened as they would in a milk bank. In addition the La Leche League DOES NOT recommend sharing breast milk through an informal agreement.

Bottom line, you have to be safe. The benefits of breast milk are well documented but they certainly don't outweigh the risks that may come with contaminated human milk. Make sure you do your research and check with your doctor before making any decision!

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