The options are breastfeeding or formula for babies aren’t they? Actually, no.
Imagine you have just given birth.
Your baby is looking to you for milk and despite all your planning of a successful breastfeeding relationship, your body simply can’t provide the supply to meet the demand.
For many mothers, the next choice is of course, formula. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this decision. It is a perfectly good decision, and the perfect choice for many families. But, there is another option.
We are forever being told the benefits of breast milk for babies. A simple google search on the topic will lead you to countless arguments of why breast is best, I won’t list them here.
But does the milk that the breast comes from necessarily have to be yours?
Across the world, wet nurses have been employed to feed the children of another mother for millions of years. In so many cultures, feeding another woman’s child with your own breast milk was common place, and still is.
Today however, mothers who wish to feed their children breast milk, and are personally not able to, are seeking the donations of others.
How is this happening?
Well, in NSW, the sale of a human body part (of which breast milk is classified) is technically illegal. (Unlike in the U.S. where woman are able to sell their excess breastmilk.)
Therefore, mothers wishing to use breast milk and who cannot express it themselves, rely on the donations of other lactating mums.
While breast milk banks are present overseas, the option here in NSW is for mothers to make contact with each other in the cyber world and arrange a transfer of donated breast milk.
This is not without risk.
Meeting someone online and arranging to accept breast milk is taking a gamble. Especially if you don’t know the mother donating it.
Unlike the regulated breast milk banks overseas, there is no screening process for milk, no policies to manage proper storage and collection, and no pasteurisation measures to ensure the donated milk is free from bacteria and transmittable diseases (although it could be argued that heat treating the milk may destroy some of the good bacteria as well as the bad.)
You often won’t have knowledge of the diet of the donor , and if you do have information on medications and nutrition its usually a case of trusting what the person is telling you is true, unless the donor is willing to provide blood test results to the recipient.
It must also be said here that feeding a baby anything but the milk of its mother carries its own risks so this is not a unique situation. Formula too, has the potential for contamination. But for the parents wishing to access human milk for their children, the benefits of donor milk far outweigh any possible risks.