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Formal Milk Sharing

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Is it okay to share breast milk?
Air Date: 8/15/17
Duration: 20:44
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Margaret Parker, MD & Michelle Brenner, MD
Dr. Margaret ParkerMargaret Parker, MD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center (BMC), Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Parker currently leads the Massachusetts Human Milk QI Collaborative among level-3 NICUs caring for preterm infants and is the education chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding Executive Committee. Dr. Parker has authored several publications and holds grants in the area of preterm feeding practices and she is especially interested in reducing disparities in breastfeeding for preterm infants using quality improvement processes. Dr. Parker earned her M.D. at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and M.P.H. at the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland and fellowships in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Pediatric Health Services Research at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Parker is a graduate of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, Improvement Advisor Program.

Dr. Michelle BrennerMichelle Brenner, MD, is an associate professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School/Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA. She is a graduate of the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and the pediatric residency-training program at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. She has been an international board certified lactation consultant since 2002 and is a 2014 graduate of The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program. 

She is the currently the medical director of the King’s Daughters Milk Bank, and serves on the CHKD Health System Board and the Board of Directors for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.  

Formal Milk Sharing
Human milk has been shared since the olden days. Informal milk sharing takes place when one mother has a surplus of breast milk and another has a need. These moms get together so their babies both receive sufficient nourishment.

Formal milk sharing or milk banking takes place when moms donate their surplus breast milk to a profit or non-profit agency. That agency then screens, pasteurizes and distributes the milk.

With informal milk sharing, there are some risks. The health of the donors is the primary concern. Moms should be in good health after a healthy pregnancy. Blood testing is valuable to prevent the passing of hepatitis B or C or HIV. Current eating habits, smoking and alcohol consumption are also concerns. Toxin exposure, regular medications and supplements are good to know. How is the milk expressed and stored? The milk should contain no additives (like cow’s milk) or be watered down. You want your baby to have the safest, best possible sustenance.

If you are considering informal milk sharing, an in-person conversation with the donor mother should help you assess her fit as a donor for you child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a policy statement for pre-term infants in a hospital setting, strongly endorsing the use of pasteurized donor milk. There isn't currently a policy statement regarding informal milk sharing for healthy infants in the home setting. The AAP doesn’t currently endorse the practice, but it is common. You should discuss it with your pediatrician if you are considering participation in informal milk sharing.

High-risk infants have an immature immune system and are at high risk for infection. Pre-term infants should stick to pasteurized donor milk from a milk bank where donors are screened.

Listen as Dr. Margaret Parker and Dr. Michelle Brenner join Melanie Cole, MS, to share their best advice for milk sharing.

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