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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid