Kat Von D turned to a stranger to provide breast milk for her baby but how safe is milk sharing?

What is breast milk sharing and how safe is it? [Photo: Getty]
What is breast milk sharing and how safe is it? [Photo: Getty]

Kat Von D has opened up about a breastfeeding struggle that meant she had to turn to another mother to provide breast milk for her newborn baby.

The celebrity tattoo artist and makeup guru who welcomed her first child, son Leafar Von D Reyes last month, took to Instagram to reveal that her breastfeeding journey didn’t quite go according to plan.

“During the first two days of Leafar’s life, his blood sugar count had been low, and as much as I had committed myself to strictly breastfeed, my milk hadn’t come in yet,” she began the candid Instagram post.

“The paediatrician suggested asking around to see if any friends might have a bit of extra milk they could donate – and if not, I’d have to consider supplementing with formula – something we personally did not want to do.”

“I called my beloved midwife, @losangelesmidwife to see if she knew anyone who might be willing to share a bit of their breastmilk who was on a plant-based diet, as that was crucial to us,” Kat continued.

“And she quickly connected me with @mattersofmotherhood who, without even knowing me, and without question, stepped up and donated a few ounces to us in the middle of the night.”

“Needless to say, Leafar’s levels boosted, and we are now happily breastfeeding at home,” Kat told her followers. “Can’t thank @mattersofmotherhood enough for getting us through these rough nights with your donation.”

Kat concluded her message by telling her fans she “can’t wait” to “pay it forward one day soon.”

“This is true community. True sisterhood. True kindness,” the new mum wrote. “And I can’t wait to pay it forward one day soon.”

What is breast milk sharing?

The sharing of breast milk is not a new concept. Years ago wet nurses were common practice and women have long breastfed babies for other mothers who are unable to do so.

But social media has made it easier for mums to provide breast milk for those who need it and as such breast milk sharing sites are springing up all over the Internet, as reported by the BBC.

That rise is echoed in recent research from parenting site Netmums which revealed that almost half (44%) of breastfeeding mothers in Britain would consider sharing their milk with other parents online, while two per cent have already done so.

The poll of 2,012 mums also found that one in 50 breastfeeding mothers already use free milk-sharing websites to connect with parents who cannot breastfeed.

Milk sharing services match mums with milk to give away to families in their local area who need it for their baby. Mothers can specify if they want milk from a vegetarian, vegan, or someone close to their own child¹s age, meaning the donated milk is as close as possible to how their own milk would be.

Aside from Kat Von D other celebrity backers include Hollywood actress Alicia Silverstone, who recently set up her own milk sharing service Kind Mama.

A third of mums donating milk through milk sharing said they decided to take part to help a family in their hour of need. A further 14 per cent were producing more milk than their own baby needed and four per cent had been helped previously by milk sharing and wanted to give back. One in 11 even enjoyed nursing so much they carried out donating after stopping feeding their own baby.

Commenting on the e-sharing breast milk trend 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.”

Is breast milk sharing safe?

But while many mums support the idea of milk-sharing sites, there are some concerns about safety and hygiene of the process.

Milk sharing Facebook sites do offer guidance for anyone considering using them, urging people to discuss medications, alcohol or drug use and suggesting they use a health care provider for further testing.

But to be really safe experts are encouraging women utilise the services of milk banks which offer proper screening and regulation.

According to the NHS, human milkbanking is a service, which collects, screens, processes and dispenses human milk donated by nursing mothers. Because the milk is dispensed to recipients, who are not related to the donor, every precaution is taken to provide a safe product.

According to the site, donor mothers undergo health and lifestyle screening, and blood tests for HIV, Hep B&C, Syphilis and HTLV. Milk is expressed hygienically in the donor’s home, frozen and collected regularly by milkbank staff. Milk is tested. Bottles with bacteria above recommended safe levels are discarded.

The use of milk banks also seems to be a growing trend. Five per cent of families surveyed by Netmums said they had received milk from a hospital milk bank. One in 11 breastfeeding mums are now considering donating to their local hospital milk bank, while 2.5 per cent have already donated.

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