This week is the first annual World Milksharing Week! The purpose of having a week dedicated to milksharing is to increase awareness of informal milk sharing as an option for parents when it comes to feeding their babies. The World Health Organization, Health Canada, and health organizations world wide recommend exclusive breastfeeding as the optimal food for babies, species specific and tailored to human infants’ physiological needs.
When a woman’s body is unable to produce enough milk for various reasons, historically women have cross nursed to help each other provide milk for their babies. Infant formulas were then developed and milk sharing decreased. As we learn more about the physiological appropriateness of human milk for babies, the desire to provide breast milk for our babies has become stronger and more vocal. Human milk banks provide a source of human milk for infants who are premature, sick, or whose mothers cannot provide enough milk, but there are not enough of them to fill the demand, particularly in Canada. Canada has one lone milk bank, and as a general rule there is not enough human milk in the milk bank at BC Women’s Hospital to provide for babies in the general community whose mothers don’t have enough milk. All of the banked milk at BC Women’s is used for babies in the NICU, save for the occasional abundance.
Human milk banks in the U.S. will sometimes ship to Canadian families for approximately $3 to $5 per ounce, but for the most part Canadian families have limited or no access to human milk banks. Some families feel comfortable using infant formulas to supplement if necessary, but other families have been turning to informal human milk sharing to fill in the gaps which sometimes arise in milk supply, or for adopted infants. PhD in Parenting wrote an excellent post comparing the risks of formula with the risks of human milk sharing, which is very comprehensive and makes the following accurate point;
- Many of the risks of human milk can be significantly decreased or eliminated through diligence on behalf of the donor and recipient.
- Many of the risks of infant formula are ever-present — i.e. no amount of care or diligence by the formula companies or the parents will erase the health problems that can result from feeding formula.
This week Human Milk For Human Babies has launched the first annual World Milksharing Week! HM4HB is an online network which connects families with a need for milk with families with an abundance of milk all over the world. Emma Kwasnica, founder of HM4HB states that
“Breast milk is not a scarce commodity, it’s a free-flowing resource. With the advance of social media, women who are willing to share their breastmilk can now easily connect with families who need milk for their children. We at HM4HB are thrilled to see women and families asserting their autonomy to do what is healthy, normal and ecological. Families are making informed choices to share breastmilk and babies everywhere are thriving as a result.”
Learn more about how you can get involved! Here on Mothers of Change we would love to hear your milk sharing stories! Have you shared your milk? Received shared milk? Cross nursed? Donated to a milk bank? Been a recipient of banked milk? Share here in the comments section, or on our Facebook Page! Hooray for human milk!