Thursday, February 3, 2011

D.I.Y. Milk Sharing

I've been meaning, for a while now, to do a complete write up about the amazing organization connecting mothers with milk to spare with babies who need food.  And here it finally is...

My Work Week Milk Stash

The first time I heard of Eats on Feets was during our childbirth education conversations from our childbirth educator; Mani Canaday.  She was discussing our options for nourishing our baby.  We discussed the World Health Organization's recommendations for feeding an infant.  They recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months (meaning no other food or even water) and then primarily for the first year (meaning some food and water in the babies diet along with breastmilk). And as long as the mother and baby desire after 2 years.  If breast milk from the the mother's actual breast is not possible for various reasons then milk expressed from the baby's mother in a cup.  If that is not possible, milk from a wet nurse or other healthy mother.  And then, finally, formula.  Now, I knew I was going to breastfeed.  It was my only choice. I would make it work (and I have so far).  Mani pointed out that if for some reason I couldn't feed our baby, I should be aware of my options.  She told me about the informed milk sharing program my midwife, Shell Walker (her birthing partner) started; Eats on Feets.  Also, if I had extra milk, I could donate it.

That evening I googled "eats on feets" and found the facebook page linking families in search of breastmilk with mamas who had some to spare.  I know that might sound weird to someone who doesn't know much about milk sharing or is concerned with the "ick factor".  But, what is more disturbing to me is that instead of trusting a sister we turn to another species, and corporate companies for sustaining our children.  I know another woman's milk is clean and safe if she's feeding her own child with it.  I know that EoF does not support the selling of human milk.  Without the monetary drive behind someone's desire to donate, there is no reason, besides kindness to give away her milk.  

I myself have offered my milk to two women, both who were able to find milk from women closer or with a larger surplus than myself.  But that doesn't mean I won't be trying again.  I have a breastpump I've been meaning to break in (right now I hand express).  Once I get a good stash built up I will be offering Sonja's milk again.  This milk I have is Sonja's not mine.  It is made for her, but she's not drinking it all, and I don't like watching those dated bottles expire and get washed down the drain.  Not when there is a baby on formula out there, getting diarrhea, allergic reactions, indigestion, gas, melamine poisoning (now recalled), bug particulates (now recalled), metal and plastic pieces (now recalled), and other complications from formula.

EoF has an amazing faq page, and is only going to get more amazing once the final version is published (current updated version here).  It lists all the risks of sharing milk, and how to tackle each of those risks.  The most common concern people throw out there is the risk of HIV or AIDS but, even someone who has taken a college level course on viruses (like my husband) knows that HIV is a very weak disease without a host and it will die rather quickly without a body to keep it thriving.  By Flash Pasteurizing or Flash Heating the donated milk, the diseases are no longer a concern.

Now, you might be thinking, "Why not just leave this to the experts?  Milk banks test the milk and treat it.  So, why not just use that milk?!" I have 3 problems with milk banks;
1. There are not many milk banks and because of this, only the highest needs babies, with prescriptions, can receive this milk.  Babies who have lost their mothers tragically do not qualify nor do babies that get upset tummies.
2. Because of all the costs associated with milk banks the cost of the actual milk is around $3 an ounce.  That would cost most parents around $150 a day.
3.  They're selling human milk, that was donated.  They are making a profit.  Once money is involved in anything, the dynamic shifts and many times motive also shifts in order to increase the bottom line.

Also, by "leaving it to the experts" you're discrediting the intelligence of women.  Even women can handle making decisions when it comes to their children, yes, even tough ones.  Even women can handle heating milk up on the stove (as Shell pointed out previously).  And yes, even women can make a difference.

The women donating to other families have made a difference.  To read some of the amazing, heart breakingly, wonderful stories see the links below: (from a thankful mother) (why I chose to be a donor) milk donors fill gap left by death) (plea for breast milk; answered)

...and those are just 4 of the amazing posts about milk sharing, with EoF spanning around the world with more than 120 chapters just imagine the wonderful stories to be shared.  If you have used Eats on Feets or shared milk with a family, friend's baby please share your story in the comments below.  If you would like more information please leave a question in the comment section.  Check out the Eats on Feets website:, you can find a facebook page for your location on the site.

Happy Milk Sharing!

p.s. here is some information about formula any mom should know before making a breastfeeding or formula feeding choice:

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  1. ♥ The women networking and connecting through EOF are amazing. I hope they share their stories! ♥

  2. What a great blog post! I like that line about how we don't trust the milk of our sisters but turn to another species instead...I really don't understand why drinking cow's milk is popular (and encouraged as healthy) - it wasn't intended for humans, but for baby cows...

  3. I have used EoF to donate 260 oz to a baby, the mom has since found closer donors to herself but knows i'm available if she needs it. I have milk in the freezer just in case for myself and will donate it when it comes time for it to get closer to expiring :D