Breastfeeding is one of those things about motherhood that seems deceptively simple. Your baby gets hungry, you pull out of a boob, and they go to town— done. But the reality is often far different. Your baby might not latch, you may struggle with supply, or you may just not want to continue with the demands on your body and time. When that happens, some moms turn to other milk-making mothers willing to share their bounty. If you're thinking of going that route, there are some donated breast milk risks you should be aware of.
From illnesses that can potentially be spread through milk to contamination due to improper storage, there's a lot to consider before feeding your baby donated milk. The American Pregnancy Association noted that going through a milk bank will mitigate the majority of those risks, but many families are using more informal arrangements. Sites like Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feet are helping that along, connecting moms in need with donors on Facebook.
You place a huge amount of trust in a donor in the interest of nourishing your baby, so it's a big decision. Here's what you need to know to make an informed choice about milk donations.
1. Your Baby Could Be Exposed to Diseases
If you're going through an official milk bank, the donors will be tested and the milk will be pasteurized, so this won't be a problem. If you're taking milk from a friend or an internet donor, there's a chance of exposing your baby to HIV, which the Australasian Medical Journal noted can be transmitted via milk.
2. Your Donor Might Smoke, Drink, or Use Drugs
It comes down to trust here. U.S. News and World Report noted that even with a donor you know personally, you can't be totally sure they aren't smoking or drinking. Substances like alcohol can be passed through milk, and though moderate amounts are probably fine, La Leche League International reported that more than that can start to effect your baby. When it comes to drugs like marijuana in breastmilk, there's no definitive answer on whether it's harmful to a baby, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse pointed out that there's some evidence that it can lead to developmental delays.
3. Your Donor Might Be On Medication
If your donor takes prescription medications like anti-anxiety pills or antidepressants, your baby will be exposed to them. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that the effects of these drugs on a breastfed baby aren't known, but classified them as a cause for concern.
4. Your Baby Could Be Exposed To Allergens
Shortly after my daughter came home from the hospital, we started doing battle with a terrible diaper rash that just wouldn't go away. We tried every cream and concoction we could think of with no success. Nothing worked until the day our pediatrician suggested cutting dairy out of my diet, which would in turn remove it from my breastmilk. Boom— the rash was gone within days. If your baby has allergies to things like dairy or soy, your donor needs to stick to an extremely strict diet or risk accidentally harming your baby.
5. Your Donor Could Be Drinking Tons of Caffeine
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia won't let women who drink more than 24 ounces of caffeinated drinks a day donate their milk. That's because, according to Kelly Mom, too much caffeine in breastmilk can make babies fussy and overstimulated.
6. It May Not Have Been Properly Stored
Breastmilk needs to be handled and stored properly to be safe for your baby to drink. The guidelines from the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention are lengthy, and you should be confident that your donor is following them closely.
7. Your Baby Might Not Be Getting The Maximum Benefits Of It
Breastmilk changes to meet your baby's needs as he or she grows up. Donor milk produced for a baby of a different age won't do that, and that may make it less beneficial according to Fox News.