Facebook is the place where old boyfriends contact you out of the blue, former high school cheerleaders befriend former nerds, and conversations about politics get heated. It should come as no surprise then that the number one social networking site in the world is also becoming a place to share breast milk.
It makes sense. Roughly one in 13 people on the planet is now on Facebook. That makes it the perfect place for an organization like Eats on Feets, which was started in July 2010 by a midwife. She was trying to match breast milk donors with people whose children had health issues.
Though not recommended by the FDA or the American Academy of Pediatrics who say it puts babies at risk for HIV, hepatitis B, and other infectious diseases, sharing breast milk online is here to stay, it seems.
"We cannot recommend the sharing of breast milk over the Internet," says Lori Feldman-Winter, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Instead, Feldman-Winter says, mothers in need should turn to one of the country's 11 breast milk banks.
Sharing breast milk is a strange topic. With certain people, the idea is repulsive. To others, it's completely normal and not strange at all. Obviously, the FDA frowns upon it, but women have been sharing breast milk since the dawn of man. I've heard stories of women banding together after the death of a mother and nursing her infant to six months. I've heard stories of women saving the lives of infants who had allergies whose mothers couldn't nurse.
Breast milk is powerful stuff and a gift whose value cannot be overstated. The idea of another woman putting her breast in my child's mouth makes me a little uneasy personally, but that doesn't mean I can't see the value it could have for women who can't nurse.
NPR interviewed Lindsey Ward, a woman who received breast milk over Facebook. She tried the legal "breast milk banks," but found them cost-prohibitive.These banks take donations from pre-approved nursing mothers and the milk is pasteurized. Preemies, who stand to gain the most from breast milk -- including protection against necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious intestinal disorder -- get first dibs.
Ward did contact a milk bank in North Carolina in her search for breast milk for her son.
"They said I'd need a prescription," she says. "And it'd be $3.50 per ounce. And I saw that, and my jaw dropped. And I was like, There's no way we could afford that."
She was able to get the milk she needed through the Facebook group. In fact, eight different lactating moms have donated milk to Ward and my initial discomfort was alleviated by her blog.
I thought my son would never have the breast milk he deserved ... I am completely satisfied now that he is off formula entirely. I feel better about my "failure" at breastfeeding because of Eats on Feets and the generous moms who have donated to us.
The fact is, not every mom can breastfeed, and if this helps alleviate some of the guilt associated with that "failure," then great. I am supportive of anything that ends that ache of guilt for moms. We all have it and it's awful.
It requires a great deal of trust, to be sure. But on some level, one has to have faith in the (literal) milk of human kindness. We have to hope that a woman who was sick with anything that could be passed through the milk wouldn't put herself in a position to donate.
What do you think of the idea of donated breast milk?
Image via Dlisbona/Flickr