Breastmilk Sharing on Facebook: Has 'Breast is Best' Gone Too Far?
A Facebook group is helping moms with extra expressed breastmilk connect with parents who need breastmilk for their babies. The site Eats on Feets and its corresponding Facebook page allow users to post breastmilk needs and availability, in the hopes of matching up breastmilk donors and recipients. The site does not perform any sort of health screening for the donors, but recommends questions that donors and recipients should ask one another when hammering out their terms.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is against online-based breastmilk donation. They issued a statement November 30 saying, "FDA recommends against feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet." The FDA cites risk of HIV transmission and possible trace amounts of illegal drugs in breastmilk as reasons why parents should avoid feeding their babies donor breastmilk.
Of course, Eats on Feets recommends that potential recipients find out as much about their potential donor's health background as both parties feel comfortable with. Eats on Feets also states that they are not responsible for any adverse health problems that happen as the result of a baby consuming donor milk.
It isn't the possible health risks that worry me in this situation. Maybe I'm a little naive, but it seems doubtful that many women would hide dangerous conditions or behaviors when offering to donate breastmilk to strangers. And Eats on Feets claims that any harmful germs in breastmilk can be eliminated through a flash-pasteurization procedure that can be done at home.
It seems like having to pasteurize your child's milk yourself would be a hassle, and really it is the smallest hassle of this whole online breastmilk-donation system. Let's consider what parents have to go through to receive donor milk. They have to locate a potential donor in their area, screen that donor (sometimes at the recipient's own expense for medical lab tests), work out an arrangement that involves frequent delivery of milk (possibly by mail), and then pasteurize that milk each time they feed it to their babies. And, at least according to the FDA, that milk may be tainted in some way.Continued on the next page