Can Providers Support Informal Milk Sharing?

July 25, 2022

Milk-sharing is a tradition as old as time, and the infant formula shortage has increased interest among families desiring food security.

Human milk banks provide pasteurized donor human milk for the most vulnerable infants, but other families seek milk from lactating people in their communities: relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers willing to share their surplus milk.

Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against feeding human milk acquired directly from individuals or through the internet, the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t discriminate between informal milk sharing and using pasteurized donor human milk when mother’s own milk is not available and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has a position statement on the topic, recognizing informal milk sharing as an increasingly common practice with potential health benefits for the term healthy infant.

This discrepancy in advice can put health care providers in a tricky position when patients or clients have questions about community milk sharing. We’ve invited authorities on the topic to address these concerns tomorrow at a provider-focused webinar, which will discuss:

  • Current evidence for community milk-sharing and what it means
  • Best practices for shared decision-making
  • What families should know about guidelines for screening milk donors
  • Informing families about safe handling and storage of human milk

How to Support Families Who Engage in Community Human Milk Sharing will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 26.

Leading the webinar are:

  • Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist of the Gillings School of Global Public Health — An assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Department of Maternal and Child Health, Dr. Palmquist co-leads the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative, and is co-steward of the COVID-19 Infant and Young Child Feeding Constellation of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. Dr. Palmquist is a medical anthropologist and IBCLC who has conducted research on cooperative lactation and human milk sharing practices since 2010.
  • Dr. Natasha Sriraman, MD, of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters — A practicing pediatrician and an associate professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Dr. Sriraman was the lead author of ABM’s 2017 Position Statement on Informal Milk Sharing and has also written on Islamic beliefs about milk kinship and donor human milk.
  • Brandi Gates-Burgess of Breast Friends Lactation Support Services — A lactation consultant at Highland Hospital, Gates-Burgess serves on the Community Advisory Board of the UCSF Preterm Birth Initiative, and co-chairs The Breastfeeding Cultural Outreach Taskforce (BCOT). She has personal experience with community milk sharing.

This educational event is approved for CMEs for physicians, Contact Hours for RNs and CERPs for IBCLCs. Registered participants will also get access to the webinar recording, handouts, and resources. You can share this event with your colleagues in the following ways: