A late-breaking Friday post from Emerald Apron
As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I’m going to write about one mom who has really inspired me. Emma Kwasnica is a mother who has organized a global milk exchange network, Human Milk For Human Babies Global Network (HM4HB), over the past six months. Moms and dads all over the world are now able to find donor milk for their babies because many nursing mothers have an excess of milk or have expressed and frozen a huge stash that they will not be able to use. Families can find their local HM4HB group on Facebook, where requests are made and donors offer their milk.
There are a variety of reasons why babies may need donor milk. Some mothers of preemies or working mothers have trouble expressing enough milk for their children and look for donor milk. Some mothers did not receive the support to be able to breastfeed successfully or are unable to breastfeed due to insufficient glandular tissue and have turned to donors. Adopted babies whose parents cannot or do not want to induce their own lactation have found a solution in donors (Elton John was recently in the news about this!). Whatever the reason that a baby is not breastfed by his or her own mother, the HM4HB enables him or her to get milk.
Some controversy has erupted over mother-to-mother milk sharing, with health agencies warning about the risks of getting milk from another mother. While I understand that they are concerned that the milk may be handled improperly, I would counter that lactating mothers like myself are very knowledgeable about expressing and storing milk safely. As far as health concerns, HM4HB advocates for informed milk sharing, encouraging recipients and donors to discuss health information and share blood test results. Unlike using a formal milk bank, informal milk sharing is free of charge.
I feel fortunate to have had the support I needed to be able to develop a successful breastfeeding relationship with my son. However, in the beginning I was pressured to supplement with formula before my mature milk came in. (I now believe that was unnecessary and could have sabotaged us, but that’s another story for another day.) I wish I had known about the possibility of donor milk then, and I am frankly rather annoyed that the pediatrician and lactation consultant didn’t even discuss it as an option. Though I don’t have an excess of milk to donate at this point, I am hoping to be able to help a family or families in the future.
That Emma Kwasnica saw the need for a global milk sharing network and acted on it to set up HM4HB is pretty rad, to use her own terminology. Please share a story of a mom who inspires you!