Have You Ever Thought About Donor Milk?

Hi! Sorry that my articles have been so far apart lately. I've been very busy with my job, but I'll try to keep 'em coming.

I recently read this new mother guidebook from the 1950's and was astonished to find out that they added corn syrup to infant milk bottles. I was even more shocked when I found out that corn syrup is still among the top ingredients in many best-selling baby formulas today. Looking a little bit further into the subject, I found out that many other ingredients found in baby formulas today are either un-healthy or unpronuncable, and that formulas that are not specifically organic contain GMO ingredients (which the companies still refuse to remove from their products). I highly suggest you read the ingredients list of various brands of baby formula. You'll be surprised at the number of unpronuncable ingredients on these lists...

But then I thought about all the mothers who, for one reason or another, are unable to breastfeed, or who have to supplement, or who even chose not to breastfeed, no matter their reason. What are their options?

First of all, I must mention that if you are experiencing breastfeeding difficulties or insufficient milk supply, I highly suggest that you seek the opinion of a lactation consultant and see what you can do to boost your production before taking any drastic measures.

But what to do when you don't have a choice anymore? What about when a specific situation, or a health problem makes breastfeeding impossible? What to do when you have an adopted baby (by the way, it is possible to artificially induce lactation without a previous pregnancy to breastfeed an adopted baby) and that you are unable to induce lactation?

Threr are many reasons forcing, or bringing new moms to opt for bottlefeeding and formula. But there is another alternative. It is still not well-known, probably because it isn't commerciallised (at least not widely commercialised): Donor milk and milk-sharing networks/banks/organisations. As much as there are moms with breastfeeding issues, there are also many moms with too much milk who are willing to share. There are various networks and organisations giving the opportunity to moms with too much milk to share with those who wish they could give their child human milk, all without exchanging money. These networks include Human Milk For Human Babies (HM4HB), and Eats on Feets, who use facebook to connect moms, with a facebook page for each state, region or province.

There are also controlled breastmilk banks, where the milk is more severely controlled, and pasteurised,  but they can be very expensive. Another option is public milk banks, where the milk is free, but their mission is usually to favor premature and sick babies and may require a medical prescription. About that, Hema-Quebec recently announced that they will soon open the very first public breastmilk bank in Quebec (yayy), who will have as their mission to distribute breastmilk to hospitals to help premature and sick babies.

Here are links to a few of the many milk-sharing networks:
HM4HB-Québec: https://www.facebook.com/hm4hbquebec
Eats on Feets: http://www.eatsonfeets.org/
Eats on Feets Québec: https://www.facebook.com/EOFQuebec?fref=ts
Montreal Milk Share:http://www.montrealmilkshare.org

There are many warnings circulating in the media about mother-to-mother milksharing, especially when it comes to the risk of infection due to various health conditions, or with the safe handling of the milk. About that, Eats on Feets came up with the Four Pillars of Safe Breast Milk Sharing. You can consult the whole PDF document explaing it all here

Here are the four pillars:

1- Informed choice
-Understanding the options, including the risks and benefits,
of all infant and child feeding methods.

2-Donor screening
-Donor self-exclusion for/or declaration of medical/social concerns
-Communication about lifestyle and habits
-Screening for HIV I & II, HTLV, HBV, HCV, Syphilis and Rubella

3- Safe Handling
-Inspecting and keeping skin, hands and equipment clean
-Properly handling, storing, transporting and shipping breastmilk

4-Home Pasteurization
-Heat treating milk to address infections pathogens
-Informed choice of raw milk when all donor criteria are met

Interesting, isn't it? There is also, ot top of all this, an existing device that makes artificial feeding of the baby as close to actually breastfeeding as possible. It's called a supplemental nursing system (or SNS). It consists of an upside-down bottle, that the mother puts around her neck. Two small tubes coming out of the bottle are taped to the breast, all the way to the nipple, and the baby can suckle normally and recieve the milk from the bottle at the same time. By putting the baby at the breast this way, he/she can get all the other benefits of breastfeeding, like the closeness to the mother, the skin-to-skin contact and the comfort of it all, while still getting the milk from the bottle. On top of that, the fact that the baby suckles the nipple while feeding from the SNS stimulates lactation, helping mothers with low supply  to boost their milk production, since breastfeeding works on a offer and demand basis. 

Of course, I remind you, after all this, that if you are experiencing difficulties with your breastfeeding, it is highly suggested that you first meet with a lactation consultant before drawing any conclusion, or giving up. There are solutions for most breastfeeding problems you might encounter, and they often do not require supplementing or stopping breastfeeding. 

Here are a few more ressources abour milk sharing and human milk banking:

Have a nice day!



  1. Hi Laurie! My name is Heather and I was hoping you could answer my quick question about your blog! My email is Lifesbanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

    1. Hi Heather, your e-mail doesn't seem to work. you can write to me at laurie.doula@gmail.com to ask your question. Thank you and sorry for the delay.


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