News / Health

Fast-Growing Internet Communities Share Human Milk

Multimedia

Zulima Palacio

In yet another instance of an Internet-driven social phenomenon, a growing number of women in the U.S. are joining on-line breast-milk-sharing communities. Their aim is to provide human milk to new mothers who can't breastfeed their babies. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about the potential health risks of this practice, advocates sing the praises of both breast milk and their online community.

Lindsey Ward, 23, has two children.  Because she isn't able to produce enough breast milk, she fed her first child formula.  But when her second baby, Joshua, arrived nine months ago, she decided to give him the best of all baby foods: human breast milk.

"When he is ready to eat I take one of these out and put it in cold water so I can thaw it out," said Ward.  "Right now, I have milk from three different women in this freezer."

For the past 9 months Ward has used breast milk from 15 women.  She met them through a variety of Internet-based social networks, and online breast-milk sharing groups such as Eats on Feets, and MilkShare.

"What I would do is I post on the [Facebook] 'wall' something like 'I need milk for my 9-month-old son,'" Ward explained.

And within a few hours, women respond.  They chat online; they agree to meet to pick up the bags of frozen milk.  No money changes hands. Ward says her baby has been healthy and gained weight normally on his breast-milk diet.  She says she's also made great friends, like Amanda Brewer.

Amanda has four children and has breastfed them all. She became a member of Eats on Feets when she had to stop feeding her two month-old baby temporarily because the dairy milk she was drinking was passing through her own milk and triggering an allergic reaction in her baby.  

"So we found two donor moms who didn't drink dairy either and so they donated to him for two weeks," Brewer called.  

After two weeks off dairy, she was able to feed her baby again.  But in the meantime, because her breasts were still producing milk, she pumped and stored it for donation.

Since then she has been both a donor and recipient.

There are many reasons to give or receive breast milk.  Heidi Briguglio, the Washington DC regional coordinator for Eats on Feets, had a personal reason for founding the chapter:  "I was adopted when I was a baby, I was three days old and my parents adopted me.  My mother would have done this for me," she explained.

Briguglio has always breast fed her 19-month-old baby Azure and has not donated milk yet.  She says the number of lactating women joining breast milk-sharing communities online is growing worldwide.   

As these groups proliferate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning against feeding babies with breast milk obtained from donors not screened for infectious diseases.

Dr. Stephen Wall, an adviser for the international organization Save the Children, supports breast milk-sharing, but he echoes the FDA warning:

"The benefits of breast milk, over formula have been demonstrated for pre-term babies, so there is a benefit in having breast milk, but only in the setting where that baby can be provided that safely without risk of infection and without risk of contamination," noted Wall.

Some of those risks include the Hepatitis B or C viruses, and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  But milk-sharing groups like Eats on Feets believe the safety issue is an individual responsibility.

"The responsibility for safety and knowing their source, getting information about how they want to handle the milk is up to the mothers themselves," Briguglio explained.  

For Lindsey Ward and Amanda Brewer, as for many other women meeting through the Internet and sharing their breast milk with many babies, it's a matter of trust and mother's instinct.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs