For many moms, breastfeeding can be a real challenge. For others, there's more than enough to go around. Recently, a new phenomenon has surfaced where a few moms are not only breastfeeding their own babies, but are also offering up a snack for babies of friends or family.
Incredible, as this seems, some moms wonder if this is a new twist on "Wet nurses" or a dangerous fad.
Although breast milk is the perfect food for babies, sharing breast milk could be risky and organizations such as the La Leche League discourage this practice. Breast milk is, after all, a body fluid, so sharing it, can be risky. Infections can pass through the milk, as well as some medications.
And, with some infections, most people don't know they have them, and yet they could pass a dangerous infection like hepatitis, HIV, and others through the milk.
All milk is different
Just as each individual is unique, so is breast milk. Each woman produces just the right recipe for her own baby's age and weight. Breast milk changes not only as the baby grows and develops, but also during a feeding. We now know that in the first few minutes of breastfeeding, the milk has more sugar and water, but as the session goes on, the amount of fat increases.
Likewise, the first milk, or colostrums that produced in the first few days of life is packed with powerful antibodies that help the baby's immune system mature.
In the past though, if a woman couldn't breastfeed, she might be able to hire "wet nurses." Though some may think that sharing their breast milk is the same, there are some important differences. Most wet nurses were only breastfeeding one baby at a time, and they did it round the clock. This meant that a wet nurse's body and breast milk composition would adapt to that specific baby.
A helpful alternative
For moms who want to share their breast milk to help other babies, especially preemies who are in desperate need of this "liquid gold," moms can donate their pumped milk to a milk bank.
Moms are screened and evaluated for infections and for medications that might pass through the milk. They're sometimes provided with a pump, a cooler and lots of collecting bags.
The Milk Bank of San Jose is a non-profit organization that provides milk for the entire western US. For moms who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, a visiting nurse picks up the milk that's left in a special cooler on the front porch. She's also available to help with questions and issues that can arise. For moms who live outside of the Bay Area, a courier service is used to ship the milk. Website: http://www.milkbanksj.org
Another option is Milkin' Mamas. They arrange for pick up of milk and then sell it to an organization that provides milk to hospitals: Website: www.milkinmamas.com
Either way, donated milk helps save lives.
For more information on breastfeeding see Nurse Barb's Personal Guide to Breastfeeding available on Amazon. Buy the book on Blue Orchid Press: http://www.blueorchidpress.com/breastfeeding.html
Buy the book on Amazon: Personal Guide to Breastfeeding