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HM4HB responds to study on high levels of bacteria found in anonymously purchased breast milk

A study in the journal Pediatrics, released on October 21, 2013, attempts to link the sale of breastmilk with milksharing and portrays any breastmilk sharing outside of formal milk banks as dangerous. Only anonymous sales were included in this study. Anyone who attempted to find out information about the recipient baby or establish a personal relationship with the recipient was dropped from study participation, with all contact ceasing. Milk was sold and it was shipped, often over several days, to an anonymous post office box.

HM4HB is dedicated to fostering community between local families who have chosen to share breastmilk. We use social media as a platform for local families to make real-life connections and come together as sustainable milksharing communities where women graciously share their breastmilk. We do not encourage anonymity between donors and recipients; we encourage the development of relationships, along with full disclosure and informed choice. The network’s community pages are a strictly non-commercial environment and we do not support the sale of human milk. Therefore, the findings of this study cannot be extrapolated to milksharing as it happens through our pages.

Furthermore, HM4HB acknowledges that feeding any breastmilk substitute (i.e., formula) is not without risk, and that milksharing is a healthy and safe option when mother’s own breastmilk is not available. Safe milksharing is possible through risk management and education. We encourage families to educate themselves about the potential risks and benefits of all infant feeding options, as well as how to reduce the risks associated with each method.

Milksharing is not going away, despite warnings from health authorities. It is actually increasing daily. Breastmilk sharing advocates have long been asking health authorities to issue guidelines for safer milksharing, including information about expression, storage, and shipping of breastmilk, so that families can identify risks and access information about managing them. HM4HB Global Network calls upon health authorities to work with milksharing families to establish and publish safe milksharing guidelines.