Sharing breast milk

Health & Wellness, KIWI, Pregnancy & Baby | February 7, 2011

From KIWI’s February/March issue.

When Erika Mehta went into labor more than three months early, she had no idea her son’s premature arrival would end up being a miracle-maker for another family. 

Baby Ben was able to drink just an ounce or two of breast milk at a time, but Mehta’s body was producing enough sustenance for a full-term baby. She donated some of her surplus to a milk bank, after clearing all the blood tests and stringent lifestyle qualifications milk banks require. But then she asked her lactation consultant if she knew anyone who needed extra milk. She did.

Tiffany Carman’s adopted son, Eli, was born addicted to meth and had a severe milk intolerance. “We tried every formula under the sun, from the regular to the ultra-expensive milk-allergy ones,” Carman says. “I even tried making my own formula from a recipe our doctor gave us, and Eli was still hurting.”

Mehta gave Carman about 10 days worth of milk and asked Carman to her to give her a call in a few days to let her know how it was going. But it didn’t take a few days for Carman to know. “I called her the next morning—I couldn’t contain myself,” she says. “From the minute I gave him Erika’s milk, he was a different baby. He went from this screaming, crying mess to cooing and smiling. I had never seen him smile before.” The official stance of La Leche League and the American Academy of Pediatrics is that they don’t support peer-to-peer milk donation and recommend mothers who want breast milk but can’t produce any buy it from milk banks.

In a perfect world, that would be the best option, says Rosemary Shy, M.D., assistant professor at Wayne State University and the breastfeeding coordinator for the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Unfortunately, milk banks can be cost-prohibitive for many people since insurance rarely covers it outside the NICU,” she says. “I wish social systems would catch up and human milk would not be such an extraordinary expense, but we’re just not there yet.”

Learn more about milk banks and peer-to-peer sharing by purchasing KIWI’s digital edition.

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