I breastfeed both of my daughters for 11 months and it wasn’t easy. I never had enough supply and actually couldn’t express no matter how many times I tried. I perservered through cracked bleeding nipples, and spent money I didn’t have on hiring hospital grade breast pumps. I would dread each breastfeed because of the pain I knew was coming, but I had been told ‘breast is best’ so many times and I wanted to be the best mother I could.
Six years down the track and much more comfortable in my role as mother, I think I might have enjoyed those first few months of my children’s life if I hadn’t been told how ‘bad’ formula was. I also watched friends who were embarrassed by their choice of feeding their kids formula because breast feeding was such a struggle. The pressure on mothers to give their children breast milk over formula can be SO overwhelming.
New mums need to know they have options. The breastfeeding verses formula conversation is one that always ignites fierce debate. Breast milk is amazing stuff but formula is still a healthy choice and your baby will get all the necessary nutrients. I wonder if we didn’t demonise formula so much maybe new mums would be able to make more informed choices about what suited them best. Whether that be breastfeeding, feeding their baby formula or sharing breast milk.
A group called ‘Human Milk 4 Human Babies’ has set up a Facebook page where mothers are connecting to give away excess breast milk. Victorian mum Kim Pennell has been using the service to access other mum’s breast milk to feed her four-week-old daughter Lucy. Kim said many donors offered blood tests to show they were healthy but she operated on trust. “You go to the mum’s house, meet her, have a coffee and a good chat. They meet your baby, you meet their baby. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s no obligation to take the milk.”
Women have historically shared breast milk for years. From wet nurses to mothers, sisters and aunties sharing the feeding. I mean who didn’t love Selma Hayek when she put that hungry baby on her breast in war-torn Sierra Leone and fed it?!?!
However, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman told The Herald Sun there could be potential health risks. The spokesman said breast milk is affected by lifestyle habits, storage, transportation, viruses and bacteria could be transmitted from the donor. These risks can be minimised by donor blood testing.
The truth is, being pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding and parenting is bloody hard and I say we just support mums in whatever they feel is right for them and their babies. I can’t say I would be comfortable giving my kids breast milk from a stranger I found on Facebook but I do know what it’s like to be hell bent on breastfeeding your kids because you’re scared you’re going to hurt them long term if you don’t. And as a mum, when you’re pushed to the brink of exhaustion and the pressure you put on yourself, we just have to do what is right for ourselves and our own family.
Would you give your baby breastmilk you found on Facebook?