Sharing breast milk online: The next big thing?

Newly-published research shows almost half of breastfeeding mothers in Britain would consider sharing their milk with other parents online

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Sharing breast milk is ancient history: the Romans used wet nurses and women have long breastfed babies for friends who were unable to do so. But the internet age has made it easier than ever for lactating mothers to help strangers.

Newly-published research shows almost half of breastfeeding mothers in Britain would consider sharing their milk with other parents online. The poll of more than 2,000 mothers by parenting site Netmums found that one in 50 breastfeeding mothers already use free milk-sharing websites to connect with parents who cannot breastfeed.

Many of the networks are hosted on Facebook or other community pages, where mothers can post their location. Once connected online they give away their breast milk to families in their local area who are unable to feed their babies naturally.

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Mother's sell their own milk at onlythebreast.co.uk

Several of the biggest milk-sharing sites originate in the US. Celebrity backers include Hollywood actress Alicia Silverstone, who recently set up her own network, Kind Mama Milk Share. Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats On Feets are both US milk-sharing sites that now have communities in Britain.

Netmums editor Anne-Marie O’Leary said: “In a world where almost everything is now commercialised, it’s wonderful to see families coming together to help and support each other for free. Everyone involved – from the mums donating milk to those running the sites – gives their time and effort without charge to ensure babies get a healthy start in life. The trend may be new but it’s already touching people’s lives and making a significant difference, which will last the families it helps forever.”

While many mothers supported the idea of free peer-to-peer milk-sharing sites, there were more concerns about the burgeoning trend for selling breast milk online. Some sites selling milk have been criticised for taking advantage of desperate parents and for selling milk to bodybuilders and other groups who do not need it. A third of mothers polled believed the sale of breast milk should be banned and it should only ever be offered free to families in need.

 

Offline, the practice of wet-nursing or expressing milk for friends’ babies is already fairly common. One in 25 lactating mothers surveyed said they have breastfed an infant for a friend or family member.

Despite its relative ubiquity, the practice has still caused controversy. When Pennsylvanian mother Jessica Anne Colletti, 27, posted a picture of herself simultaneously breastfeeding her son and her friend’s son on a parenting Facebook group this week the image went viral and sparked headlines worldwide.

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Jessica Colletti breastfeeding her son and her friend's son

Despite the snide tone of many articles and online comments, the post was liked more than 1,000 times and received an outpouring of support from other mothers.

Ms Colletti said in an interview with a US website: “I think people have misinformation and fear. They think it’s gross bodily fluid that shouldn’t be shared or transferred in any way. And I can understand, if people are receiving donated breast milk, they want to have it tested, but if you know the mother directly and she’s healthy, and you know everything about her, it’s a perfectly healthy relationship to have.”

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