Policy Statement on Sharing Human Milk
Breastfeed Chicago proudly and enthusiastically supports the use of human milk for babies. It is the priority of our organization to help mothers find the information and connect with the resources needed to successfully breastfeed their babies. When a mother is unable to provide a full milk supply, her baby may need donated human milk. It is essential that this donated milk is safe.
Breastfeed Chicago (BFC) is aware that many mothers have informally shared their breastmilk and wet nursed among family and close friends. BFC also recognizes that in emergency situations or following natural disasters, sharing human milk can be a lifesaver. The latter special circumstances, however, are beyond the scope of this policy statement.
BFC recognizes, in accordance with the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM Clinical Protocol #3), that directly breastfeeding a mother’s own infant is the preferred way to feed babies. When this isn’t possible, a mother’s expressed milk is the best substitute, followed by pasteurized human donor milk, then protein hydrolysate formulas, and lastly standard artificial baby milk (formula).
There are many benefits and risks that a mother must consider when deciding whether to use donated human milk. The benefits include, but are not limited to: optimal nutrition, easy digestibility, and immunologic protection. Risks can include, but are not limited to: transmission of certain infectious agents, like bacteria or viruses, some of which may be found in milk expressed by asymptomatic women; drugs; possibly some environmental contaminants, and potentially unhygienic storage and handling of unprocessed donated milk. Milk from a qualified milk bank will require donors meet specific health requirements before accepting their donations, which eliminates many of those risks.
In rare circumstances when a mother’s own milk is not available a human milk bank provides the best alternative with pasteurized, screened donor milk. Physicians may write a prescription or a hospital purchase order for donor milk from a milk bank. There is a processing fee but many insurance companies offer coverage for the purchase of human milk from a milk bank.
A mother who is unable to use a human milk bank is encouraged to use the services of a doctor who is knowledgeable about managing human milk donations. The doctor will be able to order the necessary testing for the donor mother, and make sure that the mothers involved in the donation are given the correct management information about human milk expression, storage and transportation.
While Breastfeed Chicago is a great place to connect with other moms, we DO NOT moderate the exchange of or guarantee the safety of any milk exchanged through the connections made on our site. Ultimately it is up to each mother to use her discretion and to make an informed decision about the substitute milks (donated or artificial) that she feeds to her child.
Here are a few sites that may help you determine if sharing human milk is right for you: