A group on Facebook serving Nebraska mothers is aiming to normalize breast milk sharing.
Doctors say breastfeeding has been steadily making a comeback from the 1970s, when the number of breastfeeding mothers was in the single digits. Now around half of babies given breast milk at 6 months in Nebraska, according to the most recent data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.
Nebraska Medicine lactation consultant Stacia Kennedy says breast milk is always better than formula, but not all mothers are able to produce enough.
Anita Long fits that category.
Her son, Quinn, is lactose intolerant so he cannot drink regular milk, but Long can no longer produce. To help him get his nourishment, she gets breast milk donations through Facebook.
"He cannot drink milk whatsoever,” she said. “So even at 3 years old he's still able to get donor milk."
Long is in a Facebook group called Eats on Feets ~ Nebraska. The page is for mothers to ask for milk donations and for other moms to offer their breast milk for free.
Long says she used to be a donor herself.
"There's no cost to it whatsoever,” she said. “Its all by trust through moms."
The Facebook page is managed by mom Brandi Jorgensen. She’s also tasked with removing posts that don’t fit the international Eats on Feets guidelines, like selling breast milk for money.
She says families are encouraged to ask mothers questions about their medications and lifestyles.
"How long ago was this pumped? What's your diet like? What kind of medications do you take? Can I see your baby? Is your baby healthy and thriving on your milk? Because a healthy, happy baby is a really good indicator that what you're doing is working," Jorgensen said.
The page has more than 1300 followers. Jorgensen estimates hundreds of families have been helped.
"It’s been about 7 years now that I’ve been doing it,” Jorgensen said. “And it was just something that I saw a need for."
But mothers needing breast milk do have another option. Several donor banks operate in the Omaha metro area to help mothers supplement their own supply.
Kennedy, the lactation consultant, says the banks pasteurize the milk and check it for bacteria.
The downside? Mothers may need a doctor’s referral to access the banks’ supply. And the cost at $22 for 4 ounces can be prohibitive for many.
Kennedy says breast milk sharing should be done among women who have a relationship and trust each other.
"It’s not something that a lot of people will talk about but it really is quite common for people to ask their sisters or their really good friends,” Kennedy said. “But I would never take milk from a stranger ever, nor would I purchase it off of Craigslist. And you can unfortunately."
Eats of Feets organizers hopes the fact that breast milk must be free deters anyone with bad will from participating and trying to profit.
"We’re definitely getting word out there that milk donation is a thing and there are other options for families," Jorgensen said.