WHAT IS BREASTMILK SHARING?
Milk sharing is giving or using donated breast milk from other women, typically when a mother is finding it challenging to produce enough breastmilk for her baby.
There are many reasons why someone may consider sharing breastmilk. When breastmilk supply is low, a mother may consider reaching out to a friend, family member or searching online to get breast milk from the community.
It is important to be aware that, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “The use of pasteurized donor milk is safe when appropriate measures are used to screen donors and collect, store, and pasteurize the milk and then distribute it through established human milk banks “.
Human milk is the best form of nutrition for your baby. Especially, if your baby has a weakened immune system or has special dietary needs. However, when considering donor breast milk for your baby, it is necessary to be aware of the benefits and the potential risks. There are three types of sharing: Formal milk sharing, casual sharing and wet nursing.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND RISKS OF DIFFERENT WAYS TO SHARE BREASTMILK?
Formal Milk sharing safety and process:
For more than 30 years the Mother’s Milk Bank (MMB) the largest nonprofit milk bank in North America, has provided life -saving donor milk throughout the United States. MMB does not compensate women for their milk. The breastmilk is all lovingly donated by women who produce more milk than their baby needs or who have experienced perinatal loss. Milk banks allow for safe, contaminant-free nourishment for babies. The milk is tested for medications, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and diseases to make sure it is safe for babies.
Families typically do not incur additional costs for using donor milk in the hospital if their baby is sick or needing additional nutritional care. When your baby is out of the hospital, consider checking with your pediatrician and your insurance for possible coverage of banked milk.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) accredits milk banks like MMB. Corporate Lactation Services supports the guidelines of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) and AAP in donating and receiving milk from a HMBANA non-profit milk bank because of the strict standards for both donors and recipients.
Casual Milk sharing safety and process:
Some mothers choose to give their milk directly to parents and babies in need with the intent of demonstrating an act of caring for the community. Casual sharing can be community based or internet based. Unlike human milk banks, the milk received with casual sharing is not tested for medications, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and diseases to make sure the milk is safe for your baby.
Buying breast milk online or getting it free from a friend/family member is unregulated and untested. Some recent studies have shown that in some instances the donors were not fully transparent regarding their health history, medications and social practices. Another concern is how the milk is stored and handled. Repeated freezing-thawing cycles may damage the nutrients in the milk. There may be no way to know for sure how the milk was stored or maintained prior to it reaching the consumer.
If you decide to receive breastmilk through casual milk sharing, please speak with your baby’s pediatrician or your Lactation Consultant for help with ideas to further reduce the risk of infection with home pasteurization of donated milk before giving it to your baby.
Wet nursing (also known as cross-nursing) is directly nursing a baby who is not your biological child. Wet nursing is accepted in some cultures and typically done through known folks in the community since the act of wet nursing is believed to create “milk siblings”. There is the possibility of lactating women offering to wet nurse another baby for a fee. Nonetheless, these women should be screened in the same manner women are screened for formal milk sharing.
This practice is not recommended for the same reasons that informal milk sharing is not recommended. Utilizing a wet nurse is also something that will not support you increasing your milk supply which is what your baby needs the most. If you have any questions about ways to increase your milk production, your Corporate Lactation Services Lactation Consultant can support you in this process.
TIPS AND LINKS TO HELP YOU
The links below can provide you with more details on how milk processing and dispensing is conducted at the milk banks and what is considered safe. Milk Banks use the “holder method” when pasteurizing milk.
Link to AAP statement: ( https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/139/1/e20163440)
Link to Human Milk Bank: https://www.hmbana.org/our-work/milk-processing-safety.html
Link to Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Guideline on informal sharing & Home Pastuerization – See Table 2
Link to FDA statement: https://www.fda.gov/science-research/pediatrics/use-donor-human-milk
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
- Your milk is the best milk for your baby, no matter the amount!
- Corporate Lactation Services can help you with a plan for increasing or reestablishing your milk production.
- Formal sharing is safer than informal/casual sharing.
- Some people may not be aware they have a disease such as HIV. Bacteria and viruses can get into breast milk. Formal milk banks screen for this risk.
- If you still choose to receive breast milk through milk sharing, follow the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s guidelines to reduce some risks. See Link above.
WE ARE HERE TO SUPPORT YOU IN YOUR BREASTFEEDING GOALS
We are here to help you develop a customized plan. For breastfeeding concerns, call your lactation consultant at 888-818-5653
My Lactation Consultant is: ______________________________ Ext: ___________________
Lowen, Linda. (2018, October 19). The History and Definition of Wet Nurse. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-and-definition-of-wet-nurse-3534100
Peila, C., Emmerik, N. E., Giribaldi, M., Stahl, B., Ruitenberg, J. E., Elburg, R. M. V., … Cavallarin, L. (2017). Human Milk Processing. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 64(3), 353–361. doi: 10.1097/mpg.0000000000001435