12 March 2011

Breaking the stigma of milksharing - INFORMED CHOICE

Recently I posted a link to Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) on my facebook wall.  I am eager to pass on the information that there is a grassroots movement out there to encourage INFORMED, mama-to-mama milksharing!  The group was recently re-named so there were a bunch of us posting the new name and new site to our walls.

Not long after I posted the link, an old friend from highschool posted on my wall: "This may be a silly question: But do people actually donate their breast milk to other moms who need it?"

And of course, I replied.  :)  Then it got me thinking, I REALLY should blog about this, because whilst my facebook wall is only viewable to my friends list, my blog is viewable to the WORLD.  Anything to get the word out!

And my reply to her was this (edited to add links, etc):

The simple answer: OH YEAH BABY! ;)

And the more complex answer (picture me getting on my soapbox...):

I'm actually in the process of giving over 100 oz of frozen milk I have to a mum in Kelowna with a baby about the same age as Riley (my youngest, he's almost 4 months old).  I've been blessed/cursed with over-supply, especially in the first 3 months post-partum, with all 3 of my boys.  This time around, within 10 days of Riley being born, I was pumping 8 to 10 oz per feed, and he was only eating 2 to 3 oz.  For me, it can be a curse, because I am unable to feed naturally without pain (unless using a breast shield) for the first couple of months.  Once my supply settles down (around the 3 to 4 month mark), I'm good to go.  This being my 3rd baby, I was feeding naturally (without shields, and without pumping) by 3 months, which was just awesome to me. :D

Conversely, with all the stresses in today's society (stress SERIOUSLY affects milk supply), limited support and education (at a grassroots level, ie: mum and aunties helping you, teaching you - which is a much better way to learn than just reading), and the "taboo" nature of breastfeeding ("ew, boobs are for sex, not food!"), some mums are finding breastfeeding nigh on impossible, at least without some supplementation.  And until more grassroots support is available (ie: we de-taboo breastfeeding, daddies understand how IMPORTANT their support is to mama, and women don't feel inadequate by discussing their issues), donated ebm is the perfect solution.

Expressed breast milk (ebm) is the BEST source of nutrition for human babies next to straight from the source.  Preemies and addict babies ESPECIALLY benefit from ebm - Jenna Elfman (aka Dharma) donated excess ebm that she had in her freezer to a couple that had adopted an addict baby -- and the drs say that the only reason that baby is now thriving is because he got that ebm from Jenna.  Neil Patrick Harris was on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson talking about getting milk from a milk bank, because his adopted daughter (one of twins) doesn't deal well with formula.

Basically, formula is either dairy or soy-based.  Soy has been proven to have high amounts of estrogen - not so good for babies (some babies even get boobies from it - boys included!!).  Dairy is made for baby cows, not baby humans.  Cows have completely different digestive tracts than humans (including FOUR STOMACHS!), so it's not surprising that MANY babies' tummies don't deal well with formula, and it causes many complications, including gas, reflux, and down the road, lactose intolerance, allergies, asthma and eczema... just to name a few.  According to the WHO, bottle feeding a baby formula is a LAST DITCH option for feeding babies, it ranks number 5, after donated ebm, wet-nursing and even feeding formula from a CUP.  And in their document, Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, it says on Page 10: "Infants who are not breastfed, for whatever reason, should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk group."  That some pretty scary stuff, yet our western society chooses formula very nonchalantly, like it's no big deal.

Culturally, western society is having a hard time dealing with this "notion" because... ew, it's a bodily fluid!!!  Ummm, hello?  And what, pray tell, is dairy milk?  Don't get me wrong, I loooooooove milk, we go through 3 4L jugs in about a week in this house, but if I stop to think about the fact that it's a bodily fluid from a COW... yeah, I'd much rather the stuff that was MEANT to be for humans.  Salma Hayek nursed an African baby last year... but our society was collectively "grossed out" by it.  Because, ew, that's just gross, giving a baby much needed milk. :/

In the 80s, Canada had over 20 operating milk banks nationally.  Now?  ONLY ONE.  ONE, in Vancouver.  I don't know about the one in Van, but milk banks in the States CHARGE for ebm, and on one forum post I read about it, it costs about $120/day to feed a baby ebm from a milk bank.  $120 a day!!!!!

The lady behind getting HM4HB up and running (Emma Kwasnica) said something that a lot of people are quoting now: "Breastmilk is not some sort of scarce commodity; it is a free flowing resource."  There are lots of mums out there like me, who have oversupply, and have a freezer full of milk (liquid gold! ;) ) that will go bad if it's not used... so why not provide that milk for a baby that needs it?

BM has probiotics, antibodies, antifungal and antibacterial properties, and ALL the goodness a baby needs (not just SOME, it is THE PERFECT FOOD).... and if a mama is unable to give that to her baby, she should have the option available to her to give her baby ebm from another mama.  

I realise that there are mums who choose to formula feed, and that's fine, provided that they have all the information.  National recalls were going on due to contaminated formula - the companies were cutting corners to save a buck (rumours were flying that some execs KNEW about the contamination!) - and we're feeding this to our BABIES?  No worries about recall from boobie milk.  lol  Formula is a necessity, many babies would die without it, I don't deny that, but it shouldn't be the first go-to solution (and the WHO most definitely agrees!).

Okay, so maybe I should step down from my soapbox now.  ;)

Please don't EVER think any question, ESPECIALLY about breastmilk, or breastfeeding, is silly to me.  (um, and including, natural birth, home birth, etc. ;) )  THAT is where the education and support starts - when people are honest and look to expand their knowledge and make INFORMED CHOICES by asking questions.

And her response was so awesome, and the reason why I decided to blog this: 

"It is quite a concept. I have to admit, I was kind of like "ew, gross....feeding your baby someone else's milk" I'll admit it....kind of gross. But I guess the points you make are true esp. regarding the one about cow's milk being a bodily fluid! Pretty awesome that you are a milk making machine and that you can donate your milk to another mom in need. Thanks for the info....definitely something to think about :)"

I just want to say thanks to MK for prompting me to blog about this... it's information that NEEDS to be out there: parents need to know ALL the options available to them.


Looking for milk? Have milk to share? Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) is a global network represented by community facebook pages for each state/province/country. These pages provide a space where families in need can connect with women who have milk to share. HM4HB affirms that human milk is the biological norm for human infants and children. HM4HB does not support the sale of human milk.


Christine Emmick said...

Wow. I am amazed at the stuff the WHO is coming out with, much to the dismay of the formula company's pocketbooks. Thank you so much for sharing this Dinnae!

Christine Emmick said...

I have proof of the BM anti-fungal properties. My SNS supplementer was used my last two babies, and each time when I ran out of donor milk, I used formula. About a week afterward I got thrush. The contact with the formula on my skin wrecked havoc on the flora and fauna.

dinnae said...

Wow Christine, that is CRAZY about the thrush! Just amazing! Recently my middle boy got pink-eye, and some bm in his eyes helped to relieve his discomfort. :)

The more the internet grows, the easier it is to get info to people, MUCH NEEDED info that our culture should be stepping up to the plate and absorbing, for the betterment of generations to come. We're coming full circle, and I think that passionate parents will put those formula companies in their place - but only with hard work from us! :)

Glad you enjoyed the post. thanks!

Tanja said...

Yay! It's so great to hear of you donating EBM. Since my #2 was born I have donated to a few families with wee ones who needed extra milk. I do it through a homebirth forum, not through an organisation.

I have excess lipase (makes the milk smell and taste sour within minutes of expressing) which is interesting, but so far babies have accepted it anyhow. (Info on kellymom if you're interested).

This reminds me I need to be expressing now. Better go and put the pump together....

I'm so glad I rediscovered your blog.
xx Tanja.