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Feeding Babies With Breast Milk From Other Women is Risky

A new survey has revealed data as to the trends of feeding infants with breast milk coming from other women. The practice is not without dangers.

sharing breast milk

Providing donor milk to one’s infant might turn out to be a bad decision. A new survey has revealed that mothers using shared breast milk to feed their babies do not always weigh the risks involved; one-third of women surveryed who indulge in this practice do not consider the health of the breast milk donor. Furthermore, only few of them are discussing with their doctor whether to use donor milk or not.

“We’re trying to play catch-up to understanding something that thousands of women are already doing so that health care professionals and women can make better decisions for themselves and their babies,” said Sarah Keim, an investigator from the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“Our study found that friends and relatives and the media are playing a huge role in education and dialogue around breast milk sharing, but that health care practitioners are being left out,” Keim said in a hospital news release. “And that’s concerning, because there are risks involved with feeding your baby breast milk from another woman—friend or stranger.”

Many women are led to using shared breast milk for their babies because of the inability to breastfeed themselves. As a consequence, breast milk is traded with the aim of providing ‘healthy milk’ to babies. As a matter of fact, the milk might not always be healthy. Studies have shown that breast milk sold online may be contaminated with cow’s milk, bacteria or even chemicals.

However, many women seem to be unaware of the potential hazards. The survey shows that 33 % of the participants do not consider enquiring about the health of the donor as a priority. 27 % of them stated not having considered the safety of feeding their children another woman’s breast milk.

“This is the first study to look at the characteristics of women who are more or less likely to engage in the practice of breast milk sharing, and can help give physicians a starting point for dialogue with their patients,” Keim said.

“If you have difficulty with breast-feeding, seek help right away, and if breast-feeding isn’t an option, work closely with your baby’s pediatrician to come up with a plan for feeding your baby that meets their unique needs. Some babies have difficulty growing or have medical conditions that require different strategies,” Keim advised.


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