With NHS milk banks often reserved for premature babies, parents are turning to informal networks. It’s time to make the milk-sharing system as efficient as that for blood donation
As I watched a woman leave my house with a carrier bag full of my breast milk, I felt proud. Although my breastfeeding journey had not worked out as I had imagined, it comforted me to know that my breast milk would be nourishing other babies. When I gave birth to my daughter, five months previously, she did not take to breastfeeding. After losing 15% of her body weight due to severe tongue tie that prevented her from feeding directly, I picked up my breast pump and began pumping exclusively – I would feed her my milk, just not from the breast. Before long, I had filled my family’s freezer with my milk, then a whole new freezer.
I heard about milk sharing through Facebook, via the page Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB), which is an informal group for women to share milk with other mothers. One of the veteran pumpers on the group had donated her milk to between 20 and 30 babies and suggested I give it a try. I wrote on HM4HB’s page: “Baby is 20 weeks, five litres to donate, no cigarettes or alcohol,” and was inundated with messages from women willing to collect my milk.