Is your freezer starting to fill up with bags of breastmilk? Is your family running out of room for ice cream? Do you have milk in there that’s nearing the end of its recommended 6 month shelf life? If any or all of these sound true, you may be curious about how to get your ice box back. So what do you do with all that milk? You have a couple of options when it comes to milk sharing.
- Casual Sharing This includes mom-to-mom sites like Eats on Feets or Human Milk 4 Human Babies. Moms may also go through third parties such as doulas, midwives, or birth centers to get breastmilk for their babies. Some donors choose to sell their breastmilk while others give it away for free.
Many recipients of breastmilk will ask the donor about her lifestyle: does she drink? If so, how often? What medications is she taking? How old is her baby? The recipient may even request blood test results from perspective donors. This is a form of donor screening and is recommended by all groups that facilitate peer to peer sharing.
- Human Milk Banking There seem to be a number of myths about human milk banking. Lets see if I can cover all the pertinent info. Milk banks that fall under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) are non-profit organizations. They don’t make money from the milk they received. They take milk received, pasteurize it, and give it to hospitals for NICU babies. NICU babies are often at risk for developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) [Breastmilk and NEC].
There are 17 HMBANA milk banks in the US & Canada, of which 14 are in US (2 in Texas!). Because the HMBANA milk banks are spread not found in every region, many are willing to send you shipping material and pay shipping costs for your breastmilk. There is a screening process for prospective donors to go through which includes blood work; however the milk bank pays for this as well. There are certain things that milk bank donors should not consume because the milk typically goes to babies in such a fragile state.
Please note that there are several milk banks which are for profit, but do not readily state that on their website. In fact, these milk banks appear to be non-profit at first glance. They’re quite misleading. If you are interested in donating to a human milk bank, visit HMBANA’s website to find info about a non-profit human milk bank.
The choice to supplement with donor milk or formula is one that must be made carefully. Each choice has its pros and cons. Each mom must weigh the options for eah and make the best decision for her family. The decision for me was to supplement using donor milk. My experience with milk sharing has all been peer to peer. I knew my donor and trusted her completely. When I was the donor, I was open about medications taken, alcohol and coffee consumed, and diet. I would want someone to do the same for me.