breast milkWe've been getting a lot of good news about breastfeeding lately. The number of moms doing it is up, and the resources for parents who need to get breast milk for their babies are growing too. Last year, donor milk banks dispensed 2.5 million ounces of milk. So why are parents turning away from the banks in droves?

It turns out many parents who want to give their baby breast milk but don't have the means are doing it the old-fashioned way -- they're going straight to moms. This helps parents avoid the costs of a bank and make sure the bank's milk goes directly to babies in hospital NICUs. It also makes sure babies get all the antibodies in breast milk, some of which is cooked out of donor milk during pasteurization.

Going personal should be big win, right? Maybe.

Donor banks check the milk for disease and pasteurize it to protect your baby. You don't have that guarantee when you go private. Even the FDA warns parents against it.

So how can parents keep their kiddos safe when they go the private breast milk donor route? Here are some safety tips you should be following:

1. Check the laws. Although legal in most areas of the country, there are certain laws that govern donor milk. In California, for example, breast milk cannot be sold, although it can be donated.

2. Check your donor's background. The most popular milk sharing sites, Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies, both run off of Facebook groups, where you can crowd source to get other moms' experiences.

3. Ask for a blood test. If a mom is willing to be a donor, she should also be willing to be screened for HIV 1&2, hepatitis B&C, syphilis, and HTLV 1&2.

4. Ask for a letter from her doctor. This will help catch anything a blood test might have missed.

5. Sign a donor contract. It's up to you what you put in here, but it can include lifestyle concerns such as not smoking.

6. Try home pasteurization. Not a choice for everyone, but if you're still concerned about disease, there are means to do at home what donor banks do.

7. Flash heat the milk. This method is another option for killing bacteria that many moms prefer to pasteurization. It will kill HIV in particular in the milk without destroying other antibodies.

Would you be willing to try a private donor to get your baby the breast milk they need?

 

Image via daquella manera/Flickr