By Brandi Tidwell
With breast milk donations and sales on the rise, moms are beginning to ask the question, “Would I give my baby milk that isn’t mine?” It is truly a difficult question with no correct answer. If, after careful consideration, you decide you are comfortable with entrusting your child’s nutrition to another woman, you are joining the ranks of mothers across history. In a time where formula wasn’t an option, a child’s only chance for survival apart from its mother was another mother.
Wet nursing is one of the longest standing professions for good reason. Children from all walks of society from kings to slaves were raised with a wet nurse! With technology available to us now, wet-nursing has entered a new era that no longer requires a woman to nurse a single child full time.My milk alone has fed half a dozen babies in 5 months through donations.
Thanks to ease of expressing milk and all of the available methods of donation, more NICU babies are surviving and avoiding diseases such as the dangerous intestinal condition necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and formula intolerant children don’t have to suffer painful gas and reflux.
But how do you protect your baby from people willing to take advantage of this growing trend?
- Go through a milk bank. The banks do all the work for you. They require blood testing and extensive medical questionnaires from donors, as well as bacteria testing of each milk batch. This is probably ideal except for the fact that the price is not sustainable for the average family and some banks only sell to babies with qualifying medical needs.
- Do your research. Use pages like HM4HB (http://hm4hb.net/) to find and connect with local mothers on Facebook. If you see any red flags, do not move ahead with the transaction.
- Request paperwork. Standard blood testing at the onset of my pregnancy proves that, at the time, I was HIV negative and my levels were healthy. I have copies of this blood work available for any mother who requests it. Of course it does not guarantee that a mother hasn’t contracted anything since it was done but you are not likely to find a mom willing to get frequent blood testing just for you.
- Do a trial run. Before you commit to accepting several hundred ounces,ask for just 1 bag. Offer baby a single bottle and monitor them closely. If you notice any obvious upset such as spitting up, gassiness or fussiness that is unusual, thank the mother for her time and move on. Sometimes herbal galactagogues like fenugreek do not sit well with babies.
- Use your gut. If you notice anything fishy about your donor, don’t do it. Even the smallest red flag should be a reason to just say no. Your intuition as a mother is a real and genuine alarm that something isn’t right. Formula is always preferable to breast milk that has been tampered with!
As always, this option may not be right for your family as this blog is for informational purposes only. Always check with your pediatrician before making changes to your child’s diet.
If you’ve read our Breastfeeding article and still feel that formula is right for you, check back next week for some formula options you may not know existed!