In the past, women who had trouble breastfeeding had one option — formula. For many mothers, especially those who go into parenthood believing that breast is best, it can feel like a real failure to give up on breastfeeding and fill a baby bottle with formula. But if a mother's breast milk doesn't come in, or if time or work pressures make it difficult to breastfeed, there may be no other choice — until now.
Today, women who can't breast feed are turning to the Internet and finding breast milk — for sale or for free — from mothers who have a surplus.
When my eldest daughter was born, I had plenty of breast milk to go around, so I donated hundreds of ounces to a milk bank in North Carolina that primarily gave the milk to premature or sick babies in need. Many milk banks in operation today also offer milk for sale, but it comes at a price, often as high as $4.50 an ounce (that's $36 dollars for an 8-ounce bottle!)
But is this milk-sharing, or "tribe-feeding" such a good idea? In November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning against feeding babies breast milk acquired from the Internet or directly from other mothers. The agency's concern is that in such cases "the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infectious disease or contamination risk" and that "it is not likely that the human milk has been collected, processed, tested or stored in a way that reduces possible safety risks to the baby."
The FDA recommends that women use breast milk obtained only from sources such as the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, where milk donors have been pre-screened and the safety of the milk supply has been monitored throughout the donation process.
Still, these warnings haven't stopped moms like Lindsay Ward of Woodbridge, Va., from turning to the Internet and Facebook to meet their baby's breast milk needs. In her blog, peaceful parenting, Ward explains why she chose another mother's milk for her baby.
"I thought my son would never have the breast milk he deserved. But today, the offers of milk continue to pour into my inbox. My son has received milk from eight different mothers from Eats on Feets so far... I feel better about my "failure" at breastfeeding because of Eats on Feets and the generous moms who have donated to us."
Personally, I wish Eats on Feets and these other milk-sharing websites had been around when my own daughters were still babies because I would have been glad to share what I had directly with another mom in need.
What are you thoughts on milk-sharing?