When my baby turned 13 months old, I realized that I really don’t need my freezer stash any longer. I decided that I wanted to give it to another mom that needed it; here is my experience donating breast milk informally.
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My Experience Donating Breast Milk Informally
I had six gallon sized ziploc bags of frozen milk, each with about 60oz, so about 360oz that I need to unload. One option would have been donating to a milk bank, however, I take a medication that – while considered safe for breastfeeding – disqualifies me from donating. The other option that I’d heard about (besides throwing it away, which would be sad) is informal milk sharing. I belong to a local parenting discussion board, and I’d read quite a few threads about people donating using Eats on Feets. I decided to try it.
Given that some of the milk I had in the freezer was pumped in March (I confess, I did not do the best job of staying on top of rotating it), I needed to get on top of donating it before it turned 12 months old – it was in a deep freeze in the garage – and was no longer any good. So I went on to the Facebook page and posted how much frozen milk I had to donate, along with my location. Within an hour, one of the administrators reposted it to the main page:
So that was it, pretty easy. The thing was, no one really responded. I got one comment from someone wondering if I’d ship it – I would have figured it out, but she didn’t respond further – but that was it. (Also! When I responded to her comment, it showed up in all of my facebook friend’s newsfeeds. I am not particularly shy about breastfeeding or pumping – after all, I do it in public – but I also did not need random dudes I went to high school with to know about my breast milk donation plans. Oops.)
Anyway. So that didn’t work out. I realized later that I should have tried through the Illinois Eats on Feets home page – I think that I would have had a lot more luck with the local group.
But, since I didn’t realize that, I tried just posting on my local parenting message board, where I’d heard about Eats on Feets in the first place. I posted pretty much the same thing that I’d written on Eats on Feets, and got three responses from moms looking for milk in an hour. I made plans to have the first one to respond of them come over and pick it up:
And that was that.
Risks of Informal Milk Sharing
There are a few things to consider when you are donating or receiving breast milk informally, versus using a milk bank.
As an informal donor, my major concern was liability if something happened to the baby that drinks my donated milk. I know that I don’t have HIV, that I either dumped or tested any milk pumped after drinking, and I made a point of disclosing the prescription medication I take to the moms I gave the milk to. They took my word for it, and most likely there will be no issues. However, I am a worrier, and that thought gave me a little pause. (Most of what I read on liability concerned milk that was sold, not donated, and said that any case would be hard to prove anyway.)
There are far more things to consider as a recipient. There are risks to informal milk sharing, including transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, use of unsafe levels of alcohol or unsafe prescription drugs by the donor, and improper handling of the breast milk by the donor before it was given to the recipient. PhD in Parenting has a really good summary of the risks and the comments to that post are really interesting.
Have you considered donating or using donated breast milk? What do you think about the risks?