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We all know that babies first and only food for the first 6 months of life should be breastmilk. But what if the mom, for whatever reason, cannot breastfeed. There are numerous reasons when supplementation, like the Weston A. Price Foundation’s homemade formula, might be necessary like insufficient glandular tissue, low supply, breast reduction surgery (though many have been able to breastfeed after reduction), medication the mother needs to be on, adoption/foster care or in the event of maternal death.
First off, I want to make it clear that I am in no way against formula or people choosing to use it. I am not attacking anyone for not being able to breastfeed (that is just silly). Does it have to be a stand off? I don’t think so. I do think women need to be aware of their choices so they can make the best decision for their family. The best way to make an informed choice is to weigh the pros and cons of all the options and choose what is best for your family.
“All of us experience life through a variety of personal filters and we often have sensitive areas that automatically put us on our guard and we may take things as a personal attack when that’s hardly the intent.” ~Jessica from The Leaky B@@b
Here is what I would like to see when a mother is found to have an inadequate supply.
#1 Address what is the cause of the low supply, suggest how to boost supply and even relactation.
- Is it a true supply issue? Before fretting too much, consult a knowledgeable lactation consultant. You can find one through your local hospital or doctor’s office.
- Is there a tongue tie or latch issue? Mommypotomus has some great posts on this subject. http://www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-diagnose-tongue-and-lip-ties/ http://www.mommypotamus.com/why-our-mothers-shouldnt-have-listened-to-theirs/
- Does mom need more nutritional support? WAPF diet for nursing moms.
- There are ways to help boost supply which have helped many. http://www.kellymom.com/bf/supply/index.html
- Relactation, yes it’s possible even in the case of adoption. Kellymom.com is a great resource for relactation and adoptive breastfeeding.
Before the advent of formula, wet nursing was common practice and in many countries it still is.
When China experienced a problem with tainted formula, sickening 53,000 and a resulting death in 4 infants, many woman turned to the traditional practice of wet nursing:
“While doctors say any breast milk from a healthy woman will help a baby grow and protect it against disease, the practice of having another woman nurse one’s own baby was largely abandoned in the West in the 19th century. But the practice is common in a number of countries. China also has a long tradition of wet nursing, but the Communist Party considered the practice decadent and tried to stamp it out.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122220872407868805.html
Questions and comments I see come up consistently when I or others bring up the issue of donor milk (usually on a Facebook thread promoting the homemade formula) are as follows:
Yes, it is. Now. But it doesn’t have to be!
“Breastmilk, the biologically normal sustenance for humankind, is a free-flowing resource and others of the world are willing to share it.”
~Human Milk 4 Human Babies Vision Statement
There are groups like Human Milk 4 Human Babies whose mission is to provide a community where moms in need can find moms with excess. There is a chapter in every state in the US and in over 50 countries.
Donor milk is a very viable option but, yes, suitable milk can be difficult to obtain and some might just not be comfortable with it. I get that. I would like to see the taboo of donor milk disappear. It’s no more yucky than feeding milk from a cow. The more people that realize donor milk is an option, the more the word gets out about the need for donor milk.
I’m not going to feed my baby milk from a complete stranger.
Just as the foundation suggests for raw milk to know your farmer, visit the farm, ask questions, the same goes for donor milk. Talk to her, ask questions, request test results, meet her, see the baby she is nourishing with the same milk she is offering to you.
The mother’s diet is probably bad therefore her milk is most likely deficient.
Yes, diet can affect the nutrient quality of milk and a diet full of transfats, lacking in nutrients, may result in less than superior milk. Is it less nutritive than the homemade formula? I think that would be an interesting experiment. If you are concerned, why not send the milk in to get analyzed? http://www.brookerlaboratories.com/service.html#nutfactdata
One thing you can request of the mother is for them to do a blood panel determining her nutrient status. I just had this test done recently (which I totally rocked!). Most insurance companies will cover the cost of the tests and most people should have these tests done anyway. If mom is depleted in more than a couple areas, it’s your decision whether to accept it or not. Another option would be to use this “depleted” milk in place of the cow milk in the formula recipe or supplement.
“Vitamins and minerals also vary according to maternal intake. But even when these nutrients are lower in breast milk than in formulas, their higher bioactivity and bioavailability more nearly meet the complete needs of neonates than do even the best infant formulas”
Breastfeeding: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mother’s Milk: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9746642
What about AIDS, Hepatitis and other disease transferred through bodily fluid?
This is a very legitimate concern. First off, breastmilk is not blood. Comparing feeding breastmilk to a blood transfusion is comparing apples to oranges. Completely different. Hepatitis is in fact not inherent in breastmilk and mothers with hepatitis are encouraged to breastfeed. From the CDC itself :
Yes. Even before the availability of hepatitis B vaccine, HBV transmission through breastfeeding was not reported. All infants born to HBV-infected mothers should receive hepatitis B immune globulin and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth. The second dose of vaccine should be given at aged 1–2 months, and the third dose at aged 6 months. The infant should be tested after completion of the vaccine series, at aged 9–18 months (generally at the next well-child visit), to determine if the vaccine worked and the infant is not infected with HBV through exposure to the mother’s blood during the birth process. However, there is no need to delay breastfeeding until the infant is fully immunized. All mothers who breastfeed should take good care of their nipples to avoid cracking and bleeding.” http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/disease/hepatitis.htm
If in doubt, flashpasteurization flash-heating is always an option. You can read about that here HIV in breastmilk killed by flash-heating. Youcan watch how to do it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNw1odieIoI
ETA: This study was done on HIV and was found to inactivate HIV and other pathogens. There has not been a study on whether flash-heating inactivates hepatitis but hepatitis is not inherent in breastmilk anyway. This point about hepatitis is not to say you should accept donor milk from a mother with the disease. I’m simply showing that people crying disease in breastmilk is overblown. Breastmilk is not the same as blood.
And remember, this is the same milk this mother is giving her own child. All women who give birth through a hospital and even at home with a midwife, have a series of tests taken to verify the mother’s disease status. Many women on the receiving end of milk donation request to see recent test results.
I know what’s going in the formula, I don’t know what’s in the mother’s milk.
Again, it’s a matter of talking with the mom as you would with the farmer you are obtaining your raw cow milk from. If you are unsure about the nutritional completeness of the milk, use it in place of the cow’s milk in the formula or supplement.
#3 The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Homemade Formula
Is the formula bad? No! In many cases it is life saving but it should be used as a last resort. I would like to see this formula used only in the absence of suitable donor milk or while searching for donor milk. The fact of the matter is, it’s milk from another species designed for baby cows not baby humans. The first 6 months of a baby’s life their gut is open, “this means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines will readily allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream.“ Human milk is specially designed for human babies. It contains the right proteins and right flora to populate the child’s gut. The gut of formula fed babies (in this case I’m referring to commercial formula as I have not seen research concerning the homemade formula) is vastly different than the guts of breastfed babies.
“Bottle-fed babies develop completely different gut flora to breastfed babies. Breastfeeding is essential for appropriate population of the baby’s gut with balanced, healthy gut flora. Babies are born with a sterile gut. Breastfeeding is the one and only opportunity we have in our lives to populate the entire surface of our gut with a healthy mixture of bacteria to lay the very basis of our future health.” ~Dr. Campbell Gut and Psychology Syndrome pg 37.
Again, human milk is designed for human babies. We can supply all the vitamins, fats and carbohydrates a baby needs but human milk is so much more than that.
A nutrient comparison of breastmilk to the WAPF homemade formula can be found here:
In the event that formula is the only option, it’s best used in a SNS (supplemental nursing system). If a mom is producing any milk at all, the baby can benefit from it. The bond formed while breastfeeding, even formula feeding at the breast, is a special thing. Donor milk can be delivered through an SNS as well.
Do I think everyone should use donor milk if they aren’t able to breastfeed? The decision of whether to use formula or donor milk lies in the hands of the family alone. That’s not for me to decide. Like I said before, people need to know the available choices in order to make the best choice for their family. One family might not feel comfortable with it where another family would welcome it joyfully but may never find out it is even an option. I’m simply shining light on the option of breastmilk.
I envision a time where a mom who has a need can go to her community and have that need met. I’ve seen this time and time again when I’ve donated milk or helped moms in need find that milk. I’ve stood in awe of moms stepping up and giving their “stash” or offering to pump for babies in need. Many moms have been able to reestablish their milk supply with the help and support of donor moms and then even went on to donate breastmilk themselves. If you are breastfeeding mom with extra milk to spare, consider donating it.
Comments are open. Please be respectful. We are all moms and dads (and grandparents) just trying to do what’s best for our babies.
**A special thanks to Marija of http://www.ecwear.com and Ashley Rozenberg for their encouragement, inspiration and brainstorming powers.**