The baby formula shortage has many moms looking for other ways to feed their babies. Moms can switch their babies over from formula to breast milk through a process called re-lactation. However, for those moms who cannot produce breastmilk on their own, they often turn to donor banks or Facebook groups to get milk.
Social media can be a quick, affordable, and useful tool to access breast milk with many moms, like Jeannie Omerza, willing to help.
“I got on Facebook, and I was searching for groups about donating breast milk. I thought, Is it weird if I was to offer to pump for somebody?” said Omerza
Jeannie says she donates her milk free of charge through a Facebook group, often to mothers she doesn’t know.
“My breastfeeding journey has been a little unorthodox. I really haven’t had a lot of problems. I’ve been lucky to be an over-producer and have frozen close to 800 ounces already,” said Omerza.
The group Jeannie works with has thousands of moms on it. In some cases, moms will make posts offering free breast milk. However, in other cases, mothers are selling it.
Right now, no law governs distribution of breast milk. But one agency who works with breast milk warns against these sorts of exchanges.
“The idea of exchanging money with a stranger on the internet for milk is incredibly dangerous,” said Susan Urbanski, the program manager with Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.
“We do a bacteriological screening on the milk and drug testing on the milk itself, and then we send one bottle of the milk to a lab for testing,” said Urbanski.
The Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes is a donor bank, where donated milk goes through many tests to ensure it’s safe for babies.
“We need to make sure that even the tiniest, most fragile babies can receive this milk, so we are very conservative when it comes to those guidelines,” said Urbanski
Since 2018, the Rock Island County Health Department has been a donor milk depot site to the Western Great Lakes Bank.
“Giving the medically fragile babies in hospital in Illinois and Wisconsin donated breast milk that has been screened and pasteurized is a wonderful way to help those medically fragile kids,” said Janet Hill with the Rock Island Health Department.