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A return to milk sharing

September 10, 2011
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I am revisiting this topic because it has hit close to home and means so much.

A doula friend of mine recently experienced the tragedy of losing her mama/client. The mama died suddenly and left behind a two-week old baby and stunned husband. This amazing doula has organized a local milk share to send to the dad so this little baby can still have the benefits of human milk. As I mentioned in a previous post, the most “local” milk bank is in North Carolina and the requirements to ship donor milk there are exorbitant for most mamas that wish to donate but are also feeding their own baby (like myself). What I’ve found through her research/work is that Human Milk 4 Human Babies has a way to either request or offer milk in your local area – it’s pretty much the only way I have found to locally milk share in Richmond (unless you’re sharing within the birth community).

There’s an issue here with sharing locally: it’s not going through the testing that a milk bank would do. But I feel, and maybe I’m too trusting when it comes to people, but mamas who are willing to help on this scale are doing it b/c they actually do want to help and care for babies and mamas alike. So no one would be offering up unsafe milk. But, honestly, what do you think? Would you trust milk that hasn’t been screened through a milk bank? Especially if one isn’t available near you? B/c forget sending milk to the Wake Med milk bank, they certainly aren’t sending it to Richmond to a mama in need (or maybe they will – although it costs about 5$ an ounce and good luck getting insurance to cover that! but that’s another topic…). I know if I have the supply I had with my last baby, I would be all for offering up donor milk. Would you trust it from me? Would I trust it from me? Would you require the mama to have a certain diet if you were looking for donor milk? Certain vitamins? I guess the obvious would be no drinking, no drugs, what about ibuprofen? Will vegans allow non-vegan milk?

I think this issue of donor milk is also pertinent now, when Richmond has been without power for at least a week – how many lost milk they had stored and frozen? I can’t imagine losing all of my milk I pumped and saved! Would you be more willing to accept donor milk in a situation like this?

INteresting, I also found this website: http://www.onlythebreast.com/ that allows one to buy or sell breast milk. These leads to a whole new set of ethical arguements – would mamas who need money badly forsake their own baby’s health to sell their breastmilk. Or is it really as simple as donating mamas should be compensated. I mean, I know we call it liquid gold but is it really worth anything? Would you rather donate or sell? Honestly, if I could sell it and I needed the money, I probably would. Am I awful because of that? Would I really sell before donating to a mama in need? I have seen mamas post that they need all supplies (pumps, milk bags etc.) before they can donate. That’s compensation right?

Donor milk is a touchy subject. I remember a FB post from a local reporter asking her follower’s if they had any experience with milk sharing. The majority of responses were about how disgusting and unsanitary it is. There were the few about the benefits of human breast milk and the pros of sharing with mamas that can’t supply their own, but those were few and far between. The article can be found here. I think milk sharing, like  home birth, midwives, and even breastfeeding, is something that was so natural years ago (remember wet nurses?) and was pushed out of the mainstream by medicine, which has now placed taboos on it.  As it gets more exposure in the media, perhaps it will become mainstream again.

Milk share websites:

Eats on Feets

A wonderful milk share for babies who have lost their moms

Human Milk 4 Human Babies

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