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More on the Black Market for Breast Milk

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Yesterday I wrote about the CNN article that talked about mother's sharing, selling or buying breast milk via the Internet. Today, I found a clip of the news story that ran on Paul Zahn with more information about the milk sharing movement.

The interesting thing was that they portrayed it in a very positive light. While they did include a statement from a Dr. in the AAP who stated that sharing breast milk could be dangerous due to issues of HIV transmission and such, the overall tone of the story was that women were banding together via the Internet to create extended families and to provide breast milk for babies. It was strange because the whole time I was watching it, it was making me uncomfortable (mostly because of the idea of strangers) but also sort of brought a tear to my eye.

Partly because it was so heart-warming to see women working together to provide breast milk for a baby, but also because it made me sad to see just how badly some women wanted their babies to have breast milk. Part of it made me say "well you know, formula was made for a reason" but then the other part says that I totally understand how they feel. After all, it was tough work to pump for a full year, but I toughed it out because it meant that much to me.

One of the women featured had had a double masectomy due to breast cancer a year before her son was born. She desperately wanted to be able to give him breast milk, so she set up a web site to collect donations of both breast milk and money. The money goes to pay for things like shipping and handling of the donated milk along with a pasteurizer that they purchased for their home use. I hadn't run across this site before, but it's an interesting one to consider in this whole debate on shared milk.

If you were in this mother's position, would you have formula fed, or would you have done whatever you could to get breast milk? This mother started off buying the milk from a local milk bank, but now that she has a pasteurizer, she's been able to process much of the privately donated milk herself.

If you've got a ready supply of donors, the cost of a pasteurizer and paying for their blood tests probably costs less than formula would...

I continue to be perplexed by this issue. Donating my milk? No problem! But taking donated milk from strangers? I just don't know... I understand it, I'm just not sure I could do it.


It sounds

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  1. Anonymous Jax | 2:21 AM |  

    When we talked about this down a post or two, I was thinking from the perspective of donating my milk. Given that I have breastfed two children successfully, it didn't cross my (somewhat illness befuddled) mind to consider the opposite point of view.

    What would I have done if I couldn't breastfeed? I'd have done formula. As I understand it (though I've never looked into it) milk banks are for babies in hospital, that kind of thing, and not just for any old baby. It really wouldn't have occurred to me to go the other route.

    Possibly what we need to be doing is breaking down the barriers there are to donating and sharing breastmilk, although I'd feel a lot better about that going through an organisation.

    Must consider more on how I would feel about my own child being nursed by someone else. First thought is no way, not at all, no how! Odd, eh?

  2. Anonymous Mama C-ta | 11:52 AM |  

    Hopefully someday it'll be breastmilk on the shelves of grocery stores instead of formula and nobody will have to make such a tough choice.

    If I couldn't get donated milk I would rather someone else I knew BF my son in a heartbeat.

  3. Anonymous KelleyFaulkner | 7:24 AM |  

    Only have a moment here, but wanted to chime in...As a mother that was on the CNN show and mentioned in the article, I was appaled by how badly the misrepresented what we are doing for our children.

    We have mimicked the screening of the national milk banks and consider private donation to be very safe when donors are well-screened. Milk banks charge abou $3/ounce of milk...highly unattainable for most. Private donation has been an excellent choice for us and we are extremely grateful to the 20+ women that have helped to fed our child.

    I wish I had time to write more...for now I'll leave our website as a resource for those who wish to learn more: http://www.milkshare.com

    Thanks!
    Kelley
    Momma to Loren, 7 mos

  4. Blogger Eilat | 11:00 AM |  

    I am a mom who recently donated 250 ounces (2 gallons!) of frozen milk to a milk bank in San Jose, Ca. I was so concerned that my son would not get enough milk that I pumped like a crazy person and ended up with an exploding freezer. I couldn't bear to dump it out so I went through the donation process.

    Let me tell you, this was a complete nightmare! The screening process is so overcautious (for somewhat understandable reasons) that it took over 2 months from first contact to finally send them my milk. The blood test that you need to take costs $650 and the health insurance wouldn't cover it. My doctor needed to write the order, but his office didn't know how to bill the milk bank instead of my insurance -- so they refused to order the tests for a long time.After I took the test I was told by the milk bank that they would not pay more than $500 since they are strapped for funds. In the end they made an exception for me and paid the bill. I felt terribly guilty for being such a financial burden to this not-for-profit organization just so I can donate my milk.

    Although im still breastfeeding, my son is 18 months old and does not take milk at daycare so I dont pump anymore (hooray!), but when I have my next baby I will definitely consider this direct method of donation.

    My best friend ended up dumping lots of extra milk because it was such a hassle to donate.

    I think of all the adopted infants out there whose moms can't induce lactation. Or gay couples who want to give their adopted babies the best. Helping people should not be so hard and I applaud these people for finding a way to get milk to babies who need it!

  5. Anonymous maca | 7:37 AM |  

    I am currently pumping and looking to donate(my beautiful son) Nehemiah's milk. He died unexpectedly on january 13th, 2009 at the hospital. He had grown from 5lbs 15oz 19in. to 12.7lbs 23.5in in just 3 months. It has been healing to know this milk would go to a baby in need. I contacted several milkbanks, and only one would accept my milk due to the fact that I have lived in England. The company that did accept me said they now cant b/c of the same reason. I am happy to do any and all screening and would be blessed to know his milk is not going to waste. Umass amherst is willing to take it for research on detecting breast cancer without doing biopsies and the proffesor can pick it up on sunday. I told her as well that I want to give it one more try to find a family that could benefit. I do not want to sell this, I want to give it to a baby in need.I thank God for the time with Nehemiah that I had and would encourage everyone to cherish all those around you . There are no promises in life.His name means God is Comfort and God has been my comfort as I walk this road of pain.In the book of Nehemiah chaprer 8 it says "do not sorrow for the joy of the Lord is your strength"and I hold tight even now to that. anyone with any ideas please email me at macarena.smith@yahoo.com

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