Is It Safe To Breastfeed Someone Else’s Baby?
A few weeks ago, one mother's picture went viral because it showed her breastfeeding — not just her son, but her friend's son as well. Apparently, the mother, Jessica Colletti, had offered to breastfeed her friend's son because her friend had to go back to work full time and had trouble with breastfeeding and her work schedule.
Honestly, I have no opinion about the picture or the arrangement. To each her own when it comes to breastfeeding in my book because the American Academy of Pediatrics states that breastfeeding can be continued “as long as mutually desired” by both mother and child. There are no known negative consequences to extended breastfeeding.
But I was curious about the medical aspect of breastfeeding someone else's baby: Is it ever a safety concern?
Because milk banks are severely lacking and most donated breast milk is used for premature babies, it can be difficult for mothers who want to use breast milk but are unable to produce any themselves, so many do choose informal milk sharing, whether through unconventional arrangements like Jessica's or a milk donor bank.
While human breast milk is considered superior, health-wise, to formula, the main concerns with milk sharing, or using another woman's milk, are:
- Contamination. This seems to be more of an issue if the milk is being stored and shipped, so technically, having another woman actually feed your baby may reduce that risk.
- Medications/herbs. The woman feeding your baby will be giving milk that will contain any medication or herbs she may be taking, so this is always a concern because you never really know 100% what else may be in the milk, no matter how well you know the donor.
- Diseases. According to the CDC, breast milk is actually not considered a bodily fluid that needs special precautions for handling. The risk for acquiring HIV is pretty small, but there is a risk for transmission of HIV from a mother who is breastfeeding the child if she is HIV positive.
Currently, there are no studies that have proven which option, if donated milk or actually having a woman breastfeed your baby, is the safer option, so if this is a choice you are considering, you will have to speak with your own care provider and weigh the benefits and drawbacks for you and your baby. The La Leche League also offers a helpful guide for mothers wishing to explore donor breast milk.
Would you breastfeed someone else's baby?