Australia: Web Wet Nurses Share Breast Milk Via Social Media

Sharing breast milk via social media, both in Australia and other parts of the world, has brought surprise in some sections of the mainstream media.

In ‘Mums sourcing breast milk on social media‘ (September 02, 2012) News Limited’s reported:

MOTHERS unable to breastfeed are bypassing registered milk banks and reaching out to strangers on social media for donations of human milk.

One such network called ‘Human Milk 4 Human Babies’ connects parents in need of breast milk with those willing to provide it free of charge.

Breastfeeding Graffiti in New Zealand

Breastfeeding Graffiti in New Zealand. Photo from Flickr page of eliduke

This story was picked up by overseas media such as India’s IBN Live.

The milk sharing websites and social media pages are easy to find. HM4HB has its own global Facebook page as does Eats on Feets which has chapters in the Australian States of Tasmania and Western Australia.

Despite the old media’s recent discovery of the issue, it is not a particularly new development on social media. Nor is the concept – web wet nurses are just the kind of evolution to be expected in the digital age.

Gullible New Parent, who lives in Darwin, addressed the safety issue on her blog in 2010:

But it's not rocket science – essentially if you want to use another woman's breastmilk, you want to be satisfied that they have taken the same precautions you would take if you were breastfeeding your own baby. They shouldn't consume drugs which would get into the milk, they should use sterilised bottles and mark the date of expressing etc. You need to be careful they don't have HIV or other diseases which could then infect your baby. So, you need to trust your donor and they need to agree to be screened for diseases.

HM4HB has been around since 2010. Sometimes it takes a while for the old media to catch up with what’s happening in the online world. Alexandra explored some of the issues a year ago in her blog post Ooo taboo! Who’s sharing milk?:

There isn’t enough information out there for parents who are looking for breast milk for their baby or toddler. I look forward to seeing this change.

One Australian tweeter, Lauren, is certain where she stands:

@MsLozzaloulilei: Mums please don't share your breast milk as using unscreened milk is unsafe. In addition, its just revolting. Stop trying to be perfect. FFS. 2 Sep 12

Whilst Damo is all for controlled sharing:

@ThatDamoGuy: @lovelysqualor @eutraphalia I'd like to see breast milk banks set up in each women's and children's hospitals nation wide. It's liquid gold. 2 Sep 12

Eutraphalia seems more concerned about the commercial exploitation of shared milk:

@eutraphalia: @ThatDamonGuy @lovelysqualor private donor/s. $80 p/L is exorbitant and I have an issue with breastmilk as a ‘product’. 2 Sep 12

Anyway, as Richard Nixon liked to say, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

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