Change the World

Is Informal Milk Sharing Safe? What Gay Dads Need to Know

You’ve fallen in love and now you’re planning a family. Or you’ve decided that becoming a loving parent just can’t be put off any longer. You’ve googled "male lactation" (or maybe not?) but in any case you are completely sold on wanting breast milk for your new baby.

Congratulations! You are about to embark on one of the more challenging and confusing decisions of your lifetime. Why? Because it doesn’t just impact you. It’s about your child. This information is intended to help you navigate your choices and make a decision that is right for you and your family.

Obtaining human milk for your baby can be achieved through either formal or informal sources. The FDA and the medical community universally condemn the practice of obtaining milk through informal methods. Because of this, there is very little information about how to navigate this option and minimize risk.

“Informal milk sharing” refers to the process of  obtaining milk from a lactating woman and encompasses a wide variety of situations. Whether you are buying breast milk online from an unknown donor with no testing, or obtaining milk from someone you know, mitigating risks is vital to your decision. The four major risks of using raw milk from an informal source are as follows:

#1) Blood borne infectious diseases can be ruled out with blood tests given every 6 months. The donor should be blood tested for HIV 1 and 2, HTLV I and II, HPV, HCV, Syphilis and (optionally) West Nile Virus and Chagas Disease. If an online donor provides a blood test result, it is vital that you obtain proof that the blood test is from the same person who provided the milk. If your donor is a relative or close friend, it is easier to ensure that the milk they are offering is their own and that the blood test results they are providing are their own.

Caution: There have been reports of unethical people selling milk online and providing their blood test results, but the milk they are offering has been obtained from someone else.

#2) Bacterial contamination occurs when a collection kit or storage container is contaminated with biofilms. For most healthy babies, the risk is minimal. But if your baby is born early or with a compromised immune system, bacterial contamination can present a risk. Excellent hygiene, especially after changing diapers or using the restroom is a must or there is a risk of transferring e. coli, coliforms or enterobacteria into the pumped milk.

Caution: Milk that has already been pumped and stored may have quality problems such as bacterial contamination or may be much older than what the donor claims. Off flavors and off tastes may indicate spoilage bacteria but the absence of such flavors and tastes does not ensure wholesomeness.

#3) Adulteration or dilution with other types of milk is harder to detect and provides an excellent reason to utilize a donor that is known to you or your close circle of friends.

Caution: Dilution with water or other kinds of milk can cause malnutrition which can trigger failure to thrive, serious illness and death.

#4) Prescription drugs, recreational drugs or alcohol use can lead to the presence of these substances in the milk. There is a relatively relaxed attitude regarding recreational drug use and breastfeeding, especially since the legalization of marijuana in many states. But with the increase in drug usage, including research chemicals, the risk to your baby is real. Prescription drugs may be approved by a doctor for a breastfeeding mother, but only if her baby is observed carefully for side effects. Because of this, a donor may choose not to mention her prescription drug use when selling her milk. Alcohol consumption is another consideration.

Caution: Being familiar with the donor’s lifestyle and potential for the use of drugs and alcohol is advisable but is not a guarantee that her milk is drug or alcohol free.


Parents often reason that if the donor’s own baby is healthy, her milk must be wholesome and suitable for sharing. One clear exception involves CMV (cytomegalovirus), which is common in the general population. Babies born to CMV positive mothers may have antibodies to protect them contracting the disease. But if your baby does not have the antibody and receives milk from a CMV positive donor, it puts your baby at risk. Please review the information provided by the CDC by visiting this website.

If you choose to obtain milk from informal sources, these guidelines may help you. To assure the safety of your donor milk, ready to feed commercially sterile donor milk can be obtained from Medolac Laboratories, A Public Benefit Corporation.


Show Comments ()

Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

10 Inspiring Coming Out Stories From Gay Dads

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our recent stories about gay men with kids coming out to live their most authentic lives.

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our best articles of gay dads coming out to live their authentic lives.

#1. Former NFL Player Jeff Rohrer, and Father of Two, Comes Out as Gay and Marries Longterm Partner

Jeff Rohrer, a father of two teenage boys via a previous relationship with a woman, is the first NFL player to marry another man. Read the article here.

#2. Coming Out to His Wife Was Painful, Says This Salt Lake-Based Dad of Four. But it Started Him on a Path of Authenticity

After Kyle came out to his wife, with whom he has four children, "she listened, she mourned and she loved," he said. Read the article here.

#3. Gay Dads Share Their Coming Out Stories for National Coming Out Day

We asked several gay dads to share their coming out stories in honor of National Coming Out Day, whose stories are heartwarming, instructive, and everything in between. Read the article here.

#4. Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News. Read the article here.

#5. One Gay Dad's Path Towards Realizing Being Gay and Christian are Not Mutually Exclusive

Gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally talk about coming out, parenting as gay men, and reconciling faith and sexuality. Read the article here.

#6. Republican Utah Lawmaker, and Dad of Two, Comes Out as Gay in Moving Video

Nathan Ivie has many important identities he's proud of: Mormon, Republican, Utahn, father of two... and gay. Read the article here.

#7. How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown." Read the article here.

#8. Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. Read the article here.

#9. The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

"I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out. Read the article here.

#10. These Gay Dads Via Previous Marriages Have Adopted a Motto Since Coming Out and Finding Each Other: "United We Stand"

Vincent and Richard both had children in previous marriages with women; together, with their ex-wives, they are helping raise seven beautiful kids. Read the article here.

Change the World

Single Gay Man Adopts Girl Passed Over by 20 Previous Families

Luca Trapanese, a gay dad from Naples, Italy, adopted a baby with Down syndrome who had been rejected twenty times previously

Luca Trapanese, a single 41-year-old gay man from Naples, Italy, had always wanted to become a dad. But in Italy, it was only legal for married heterosexual couples to adopt until 2017. Even then, he was told that he'd only be able to adopt a "hard to place" child, with mental or physical challenges.

"They told me that they would only give me sick children, with severe disabilities, or with behavioral problems," he told the BBC in an interview. "I was absolutely ok with that."

And that's how Alba, a little girl with Down syndrome, came into his life. Abandoned at birth, she had been passed over by 20 separate families before Luca was approached about providing her a home. Luca, who has worked and volunteered with people with disabilities from a young age, readily agreed.

"I'm proud to be her father," Luca said. "Alba was never a second option because she had a disability. I wanted her to be my daughter."

Listen to the entire interview here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Growing a Thicker Skin

Experiencing hateful and hurtful comments, Erik Alexander had to learn an important lesson: how to ignore the trolls.

Photo credit: BSA Photography

Twenty years ago when I came out, it was unbearably hard. As I have written before, I am from the Deep South. Anyone who dared to deviate from social norms was sure to be ostracized. It's not that these people were born hateful or mean; rather, it probably had more to do with them not being subjected to other lifestyles. Anything different from their own experiences sparked fear and confusion. Homosexuality, interracial relationships, religious differences – these were all unfamiliar territories to the average person I grew up around. Thus, growing up was particularly difficult.

I remember lying in bed at night when I was a little boy. I would pray and beg God to not let me be gay. Every single night I would end my prayers with "... and God, please don't let me have nightmares and please don't let me be gay." I remember crying myself to sleep many nights. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I wanted God to cure me.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Family Stories

These Adoptive Dads Gained an Extended Family Through Foster Care

Adoptive dads Edward and Andrew have maintained a close relationship with their twins' biological family.

Celebrating gay, bi and trans fatherhood is what we do on Gays With Kids. We rejoice in whatever paths our community took to become parents. But many of those journeys come with heartbreak, sometimes for the intended parents, and sometimes for the biological family from whom the adoption or foster placement occurs. With an open adoption, the adoptive and biological families come to an arrangement which best benefits the child, and that's when something truly beautiful can occur. This isn't always possible in every scenario, but when it does, we're exceedingly thankful. Can a child ever have too many family members loving them? Not likely. This was husbands of five years Edward and Andrew Senn's experience.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Gay Dads + Kids = MAJOR Family Halloween Costumes

All October long, we'll be posting pics of gay dads and their major Halloween costumes from previous years for inspiration! We'll ALSO let you know where to get the looks!

We've said it before and we'll say it again — NO ONE does Halloween (aka queer Christmas) better than the gays. So if you're in need of some inspiration for this year's family costume, look no further! We selected 31 of our favorites off Instagram from last year, one for each spooky day of October, to help get your creative juices flowing.

We can't wait to see what creepy, creative and/or cute costumes dads have up their sleeves (or maybe capes?) this year!

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse