Should You Feed Your Baby Donated Breast Milk?
I have to admit that when it comes to feeding my baby, I really thought I only had two options:
1. Breastfeed her myself, whether that be through pumping or directly nursing,
2. Feed her formula, supplementary or in combination with breastfeeding.
Obviously, we've moved past the days of mothers feeling shame to choose formula for their babies, and although that is by far a positive step, it does leave us overlooking the third option that should be just as feasible:
Using donated breast milk.
Lots of women are interested in donating breast milk, like Devan and Heather. “I decided to donate breastmilk because I’m a HUGE breastfeeding advocate,” Heather told EverydayFamily. “I realized that I couldn't go running around saying ‘Breast is best!' without actually doing something to help those moms who physically cannot produce milk for their babies, so milk donation was an obvious choice.”
Heather is on to something there. If we can accept as a society that breast is best, but also that some mothers will either not want to breastfeed or are unable to breastfeed, why aren't we doing more to ensure that using donated breast milk is as easy as mixing up a bottle of formula?
Mary Sauer is one mother who chooses to use donated breast milk to feed her daughter.
“I know formula is a fine option, as I was made aware by a less-than-kind internet troll after sharing about my donor milk experience online,” she wrote in an essay for Babble. “Formula may be fine, but I also believe breast milk is the better option. In fact, we used formula between donations, and my daughter became constipated and gassy.”
Instead of using formula and having her daughter be uncomfortable, Sauer described how she met with a local mother, discussed her health practices, and then procured the donated milk on a regular basis for her daughter as part of an altruistic milk sharing co-op called Human Milk 4 Human Babies. Sauer was happy with the results and says she would “do it again” if the situation happened with another baby.
Right now, the market for breast milk is not regulated, and there are issues with it, such as the fact that it could be diluted with cow's milk or even harbor bacteria due to poor storage and handling issues.
I think there is an important future for breast milk donation, both for mothers who wish to donate and for mothers who wish to have the option of using donated breast milk safely.
If you are a mother and wish to donate your breast milk to a regulated milk bank, please check out the Human Milk Banking Association of America.
If you are looking to use donated breast milk, please see the new regulated, sterilized milk offered by Medolac Laboratories and the Mother's Milk Cooperative.