There are tons of well-known benefits of breastfeeding, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for six months. After that, you can introduce solid food and continue breastfeeding for a year or as long as you and baby want. But some moms, for various reasons, aren’t able to give their own breast milk to their babies—and sometimes consider using donor breast milk instead.
You don’t usually have to look far to find ads for donor breast milk. Head to a moms’ group board and you’ll see frequent posts from well-intentioned mothers offering to share or sell their extra milk, and more posts from parents asking around for milk they can use. There are even popular websites and Facebook pages dedicated to the sharing or selling of breast milk. But while the AAP recommends breastfeeding, they also warn of safety concerns about informal donor milk sharing—that is, milk that isn’t donated to or acquired through established milk banks that perform safety checks and screenings.
Here are the top five facts parents need to know when it comes to informal breast milk sharing:
1. Human milk is a body fluid, and therefore is prone to contamination. Breast milk can be contaminated by bacteria if it’s not collected and stored properly. It can also be contaminated with viruses and other substances—such as drugs, herbs or medications the milk donor might be taking—which can then…