Hundreds of breastfeeding mothers in Victoria have united to donate their breast milk so other mums wouldn’t have to feed their babies artificial formula milk.
In a Facebook group that is part of an international movement called, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, mothers can just meet up for the informal breast milk sharing to happen.
Mum Kim Pennell, 33, from Cranbourne, bought a special deep freezer where she stocked the donated breast milk before the birth of her daughter, Lucy, four weeks ago. She said that Lucy is thriving on other mother’s milk from the 1450-member Facebook group based in Victoria. She also said many donors offered blood tests to show they were healthy. But she operated on trust.
“You go to the mum’s house, meet her, have a coffee and a good chat. They meet your baby, you meet their baby. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s no obligation to take the milk.” she said.
The mum-of-four said she had struggled to breastfeed and believed formula had led to the cow’s milk protein intolerance and sleep problems of one of her kids, Zoe. Ms Pennell said that some people may find breast milk “icky” but it’s the natural food to give to babies.
“Even though these babies aren’t breastfed, they’re getting human milk,” she said.
Ms Pennell said that about six women had donated Lucy’s 100 litres, including mum Natalie McGrath, 37, from Ballarat who has a four-year-old daughter, Jessica, and six-month-old son, Thomas.
Mrs McGrath said she had too much milk for Thomas so she decided to donate and had provided about eight litres to four women. She said she has blood tests results showing she was free of transmittable diseases.
“It’s mums helping mums. It’s a very supportive community out there,” she said.
However, Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Tim Vainoras said that potential health risks may arise through these informal human milk donations.
He said that many factors can affect the quality of milk. “The milk can be affected by a range of factors, including lifestyle habits, such as drinking alcohol and smoking, personal hygiene, as well as correct storage and transportation.”
He said viruses and bacteria could be also be transmitted through unpasteurised breast milk and there was no guarantee that donated product was safe and suitable for consumption.