News / Health

Fast-Growing Internet Communities Share Human Milk

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid