Moms turn to social media to find breast milk

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Breast milk is called "liquid gold" for babies, and Houston area mothers are using social media to get what their babies need. That means skipping expensive milk banks and the strict medical testing that goes along with them.

Baby Brooklyn and little Imaan get together a couple of times a week for a play date.

Their moms share a good laugh and share breast milk.

"It just makes me feel so much better knowing my baby is still getting the best that there is," said Nicole, a mother of three.

Northwest Houston mom Nicole said a couple of months ago she noticed her breast milk production unexplainably becoming less and less.

She said, "It's really difficult when you find out your body is not efficient enough to feed your child."

She looked into certified milk banks, but the costs add up. Most charge $3 to $5 an ounce, citing screening, storage and processing fees. Little Brooklyn takes a 5-ounce bottle every three to four hours. Do the math and that's as much as $150 a day.

Frustrated, she posted a heartfelt ad on Craigslist pleasing, "If you could find it in your heart to donate anything... even a one-time donation will help SO MUCH."

Rina Rahman, a nurse and new mom, was in the fortunate position of having a surplus supply.

She said, "I was searching breast feeding supplies, or something like that, and I came across Nicole's breast milk wanted ad. I just felt like, 'Oh my gosh! I've got to call this lady. I really want to help her.'"

After emailing and texting back and forth verifying things like diet, lifestyle and recent blood work, the two women met up.

Nicole said, "She didn't seem to be hiding anything, and that was what really mother's instinct basically told me -- she was OK."

Since that day, Rahman has been donating her fresh and frozen breast milk to baby Brooklyn, who's thriving.

Rahman told Local 2, "It's very rewarding. It makes me feel almost in a way like I have another child."

But exchanges like these do come with a warning.

Nancy Hurst, director of The Mother's Milk Bank at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women said, "You don't know whether it's safe."

The pasteurized donor breast milk at The Mother's Milk Bank is given exclusively to in-patient babies, so there's no cost to families. Donors who give to the Pavilion for Women are unpaid. There are strict guidelines and qualifications aimed at putting mothers at ease.

Hurst explained, "Asking them about medication they're on, any foreign travel, certain types of illnesses, then they do a blood test on them as well and check that ... you don't see that with the sharing or selling of the milk online."

The Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against casual milk sharing, citing the risk of exposure to infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.

Rahman donates her milk for free, which further reassured Nicole.

Nicole explained, "It just makes me feel better when someone wants to give it to me out of the goodness of their heart."

Rahman also encourages other moms to consider milk donation.

She said, "When they see that there's' a community out there that is able to do it, that'll probably open their mind to that and, most importantly, give something that's a lot healthier and better to their babies."

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