CHICAGO (CBS) – Many women are bypassing traditional breast milk banks for a cheaper, easier alternative: breast milk sharing.
CBS 2′s Roseanne Tellez explains that it’s a potentially risky option for your baby unless you know the right questions to ask.
Laura Barna has a stockpile of breast milk, pumped, bagged and ready to go inside her freezer, but it’s not even for her baby.
Instead she’ll load it into a cooler for another mom, Kallie Mashare.
“The benefits of breast-feeding are just phenomenal compared to regular formula, and I didn’t want to pass it up,” Mashare said.
The working mom breastfeeds her 9-month old daughter, Briley, every chance she gets. But pumping at the office just didn’t work out, so she turned to the Internet and a Facebook group called “Eats on Feets.”
“I wanted milk no matter what. I think I would have bought it if that was my only option,” Mashare said.
Breast milk for sale isn’t hard to find. Many women sell breast milk online and you’ll find several Chicago-area women all willing to sell their excess breast milk for $1 to $3 per ounce.
But Barna was giving hers away. What does she get out of it?
“Not a whole lot, just the benefits of knowing Briley’s able to get breast milk,” Barna said.
Barna and Mashare became fast friends, as did their daughters Lily and Briley.
Barna said her husband was shocked when he told her she was going to donate breast milk.
Mashare’s family was especially concerned about her taking breast milk from a stranger.
She acknowledged she was concerned about the dangers of her baby catching a disease.
In fact, the Illinois Department of Public Health has a warning that viruses, drugs and bacteria can be transmitted through breast milk to an infant.
After seeing Barna’s prenatal lab tests and interviewing her at length, Mashare felt assured.
Mashare said she was impressed by “How (Barna) eats, she’s not on any medication, she doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t drink alcohol; everything that I was looking for.”
Milk banks also offer screened and pasteurized breast milk, but it will cost you. That’s one more reason women are turning to each other.
“Not only is she getting my antibodies but now she’s also getting Laura’s. Double the benefits, so it’s wonderful,” Mashare said. “She’ll always have a special place in Briley’s life. She’ll always be her milk momma.”
Tellez spoke with some of the women trying to sell their extra breast milk. One said that she wouldn’t buy from a stranger, but said she’s selling instead of donating to a milk bank because she doesn’t have to get tested.
Some breast milk banks charge between $3.75 and $5 an ounce.