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Sharing breast milk between mothers spreads on the internet

Medical experts, FDA warn mothers to use caution when taking donated milk from strangers

SAN ANTONIO – First-time mother Sarah Delgado says she feels lucky to be able to produce enough milk for her 8-month-old, Olivia, and still have extra to share.

For about six months, Delgado has been sharing the extra breast milk with other mothers that she has connected with on social media.

“It’s something that is a lot of hard work and a lot of love for my own baby,” she said. “I love being able to pass on that blessing to other families.”

Delgado has been able to give human milk to several different families for about six months. She said she carefully vets people who receive her milk, and she expects those receiving to do the same.

“Ask all the questions you want — ask every question you can think of. If you have that gut feeling, don’t give the milk. It’s not worth the risk,” she said. “For me, I’m really forthcoming. I tell them any medication, supplements. I tell them about my diet."

One of the moms whom Delgado donates to needs the milk because she has adopted a baby, but each mother has their own reasons for needing the milk.

A quick web search shows that human milk can be purchased online. The sites Delgado shares her milk through ban the selling of human milk. It also warns those networking to be cautious.

“It is not without its risks, but when done correctly and safely, it's something really special,” Delgado said.

Kay Banus and Dana Ryherd, lactation specialists at Northeast Baptist Hospital, can list the number of benefits of providing babies with human milk, which some call “liquid gold.”

The hospital is one of several locations where mothers can drop off human milk to donate to the Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin. The Austin center processes donated milk to supply human milk for babies born prematurely and those with medical complications.

The center can also provide milk for healthy babies, at the cost of about $4.65 an ounce, but its main priority is babies who have doctor referrals or are in the hospital.

“It helps the baby finish developing, finish growing their brain, finish growing their eyes and it keeps them protected from germs for a long time,” Banus said.

While the sharing of human milk isn’t new, experts warn mothers who are receiving milk from others to be cautious and not purchase milk from strangers online.

“The (Food and Drug Administration) and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourage mothers from purchasing milk online and recommend if you need mother’s milk, that you go through a milk bank," Ryherd said.

Experts say mothers should ask about the donor’s medication and should consider asking for lab work and an HIV test. They should also know how breast milk should be properly stored.

If you must take milk from another mother, consider someone whom you know very well. If you take donated milk, look for troubling signs after feeding the baby.

“Its gonna be a sleepy baby or a baby not breathing well or being too sleepy to eat or jitteriness," Banus said.

Delgado said she considered donating her milk to the milk bank, but she wanted to help a mother in need who could not afford to purchase it. But she urges any breastfeeding mother to consider sharing the gift with others.

“It’s an awesome thing to do,” she said.


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