In Focus:

Breast milk sharing: How does it work?

Much to the chagrin of those who struggle to make enough breast milk, some women easily produce enough to feed quadruplets. With freezers full of pumped breast milk, these women might worry about whether or not they’ll be able to use it all before it expires. This is often how breast milk sharing begins.

 

Breast milk sharing occurs both formally and informally. On the formal side, many milk banks belong to The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), a professional association for supporters of nonprofit donor human milk banking. HMBANA has policies for donor human milk collection involving the rigorous screening of potential donors’ health and medication use. Milk bank donors are also instructed on proper collection, storage and shipping — and their milk is pasteurized before it’s distributed. Women who donate their breast milk in this way aren’t paid. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of these banks.

Informal milk sharing practices occur between friends, family and even strangers online. Websites connecting people who want to sell and buy breast milk often include recommendations for buyers on how to minimize health and safety risks, such as making sure the donor has been screened for certain infections. But are these measures enough?

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