Reporting Marybel Rodriguez
MIAMI (CBS4) – As more and more studies come out showing just how powerful breast milk is for newborns, mothers everywhere are trying to make sure they have enough for their new bundle of joy.
But, some mothers are turning to cyberspace as a way of making sure their child has breast milk.
Candice Hankins and Leslie Westenhaver were strangers until they met on Facebook. It turns out one had the breast milk the other desperately craved.
“It’s hard when you can’t you are not capable of feeding your own child by yourself,” said Hankins.
Hankins turned to “Eats on Feets.” It’s a new online group that connects mothers in need of breast milk with donors willing to provide it. It’s completely unregulated and has no screening or fees.
While the program is appealing to many women, medical professionals warned that there’s still a lot of unknowns in the area of donor breast milk.
“Just as a professional I would say we have to be cautious about that,” warned lactation consultant Pamela Hendrix with Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines.
She said while it is very rare babies could get sick from another woman’s breast milk.
“Her milk is made for her baby, and if there are viruses and things in that milk that are okay for her baby; but it may not be okay for another baby, it’s very rare but it could happen.”
Hendrix said Memorial uses donor breast milk on some premature babies but it comes from a donor bank not the internet.
“The mother’s blood work is tightly screened and it goes through a pasteurization process. So there’s no chance of viruses or diseases or anything.”
Westenhaver described the situation as simple supply and demand.
“Someone has the need and I have the milk,” said Westenhaver.
She has been feeding her own daughter and Candice’s daughter for the last several months.
“I started when my son my youngest was around 4 months old,” Yasmel Sosa explained.
Sosa who lives in downtown Miami has been donating breast milk for 4 years. That’s how old her son Matthew is now.
“I was pumping more than what he drank. I couldn’t keep it all in my freezer.”
Sosa said she feels like she’s giving the babies who need it – a gift.
“I do it because I think breast milk is for babies and it’s the healthiest thing I can do,” Sosa said. “I can’t breast feed them myself; so I feel like I’m doing something to help them out.”
Most donor banks charge recipients for the milk and that’s why some mother’s choose to share over the internet.
“I really did not feel right donating my milk and then having another mom having to pay for it,” explained Westenhaver.
She said she always makes her blood work available and urges moms using “Eats on Feets” to ask for a health history.
“There is nothing I could do to thank her adequately,” added Hankins.
According to the founder of Eats on Feets, people opposed to sharing breast milk wrongly view it as sharing bodily fluids. She said its food the body naturally makes and a healthier choice compared to formula.