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.

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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. https://www.cdc.gov/cmv/congenital-infection.html

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. www.medolac.com.

 

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