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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is Breastmilk Always Best?

Recently a baby in Minnesota lost his mama when he was just a week old. The father knew that his wife was adamant about giving her baby breastmilk and wanted to continue to do so after she passed away.

Fast forward a few weeks later to when Mckmama of mycharmingkids.com put together a breastmilk drive for this wee one. She sent a shout out and many mothers responded by pumping and donating milk to the father of this baby.

It is amazing to see so many breastfeeding mothers come together to support a father who wants to do the best for his child.


the milk drive that Mckmama pulled together is causing a great deal of controversy. And rightly so.

My personal opinion is that breastmilk is best for a baby. After all, it is the way God intended for a baby to be fed and is geared specifically for each baby. The nutrients are far superior to formula. This is not to say that a mother who formula feeds is a bad mother; formula vs. breast is a personal decision (much as organic vs. traditional foods is). If I was unable to breastfeed my own babies I would consider buying breastmilk from a milk bank (if I was a millionaire, that is...this stuff is expensive!) or accept breastmilk from a long-time trusted friend or family member.

I would not accept breastmilk from a total stranger.

There is a reason that breastmilk from a milk bank is grossly expensive. The mothers and the milk have to go through a rigorous screening and testing process. Health is monitored, milk needs to be stored and transported a certain way. This is for the safety of the infant. Breastmilk expressed and stored incorrectly can cause an infant to get sick or miss needed nutrients that should have been in the milk. Mothers with health issues (HIV, Hepatitis, etc.) can pass those illnesses along in their milk. Mothers on certain medications or with alcohol or other substances in their milk can be a danger to the baby receiving the milk. There is a reason that milk banks have a testing process in place.

I think Mckmama's heart was in the right place but that her plan was executed much too quickly without a whole lot of thought behind the specifics. Could she not have raised funds instead for this father so that he could have purchased milk from a milk bank? Could she not have organized a group of women in his own town that could go through testing and then donate their milk to him? Collecting breastmilk from complete strangers with unknown histories is a danger. Who is to say what is in those breastmilk storage bags that she collected for this infant?

I wouldn't give my baby breastmilk from a complete stranger that had not undergone a complete blood work test and health written statement from her doctor any more than I would eat a sandwich given to me from a stranger at the door.

In this case, it seems, Mckmama is putting the horse before the cart. Untested breastmilk from strangers is much more risky and unhealthful than formula. Mckmama hasn't stopped to realize that in her quest to help this infant she could be causing a great deal of harm by the route she is taking of collecting breastmilk. She seems to be promoting the idea that any and all breastmilk is better than formula, when that is not even close to the reality. Breastmilk is not always the best, in my opinion, if there is a danger to the baby from unscreened strangers.

Your thoughts?


  1. I agree 100% with you. It sounds like a bad idea to me. If I were Matthews father I would say thanks, but NO thanks.

  2. ok, not gonna lie, that would TOTALLY creep me out to the max! and the dangers involved? ikes!
    aside from your own breastmilk for your own child, breastmilk is ONLY best for entertainment purposes. let me share exhibit A (trust me, it's WORTH the read!):

    so, for the record, i completely agree with you elizabeth!

  3. Absolutely agree with you! I love reading Mckmama but I thought this whole breastmilk thing for Matthew is a nice gesture to help but she should´ve put more thoughts to that.

  4. Actually, I could show you research that has been done in Africa (where there are a lot of AIDS moms) that breastmilk even from infected moms that could pass the disease on, is still the best thing to do. Even the World Health Organization recognizes that breastmilk from another source is still superior to formula. I would take breastmilk from a stranger in a heart beat if it was to prevent my baby from having formula. You have to also think that these are already lactating moms that are donating.

  5. I think it's risky to take breast milk from an untested stranger. Honestly, I wouldn't take breast milk from a tested stranger and I am a huge supporter or breast feeding (just a personal preference). If the mother has HIV/AIDS and donates milk, the chances of passing on the disease is slim but it still exists. If a mother has HIV/AIDS, she needs to give her baby formula. Other than HIV/AIDS, I'm not sure any other disease could be passed on. BUT, the mother could be taking medications that are harmful and that could be a very big problem.

  6. I think that if Baby Matthews father wanted breastmilk for his son and MckMama was able to provide it, then that is all that matters. It is not her responsibility to test the milk, she is only supplying it. If baby Matthew's father is concerned then he will personally have all of the milk tested before he feeds it to his son. Why is everyone hating on MckMama when all she did was provide for someone in need? Why aren't the masses hating on the father and finding out what HE is going to do about this beautiful gift of milk for his son? Has anyone actually asked him if he is having the milk tested? Because I have the feeling that he probably is.... I wish people would stop causing such an uproar about one woman trying to rally the masses in order to help an innocent infant in need.

  7. I agree with Crystal Light. The circumstances would have to be pretty extreme for me to give my baby someone else's breast milk but at the same time if he wants to, it is his choice. Mckmama saw a need and filled it. I know it sounds simplistic but I wish everyone would just stop the hate. I know she is not perfect but no one is and she was just trying to help.

  8. I just want to put in a short comment here not with intention of prolonging this argument. I have seen other blogs where this argument is going on and on and on some more. I think the commenters here must be aware of that perhaps. I did not feel that you, Elizabeth, were hating anyone. Since when was having a stand that disagreed with someone became "hating". I think you gave a reasoned argument.


  9. I've never even heard of this story. But from what I've gathered on this blog, I believe the father is mostly to blame as well. However, if a woman is collecting untested milk, promoting and distributing it, then she is partially to blame too because is handing out an unsafe product. Good intentions or not.

  10. I don't think anyone is hating on Mckmama because of this story. It is an interesting controversy and it's interesting to see who agrees and disagrees.
    Ultimately, it is the father who must decide whether he wants to feed the child untested milk from strangers. It is quite expensive to test after the fact, which is why I thought this whole milk crusade was a bit odd. It would have been better to raise funds for him to purchase milk from a milk bank or to rally a few women in his area who could get tested and then supply him with milk.
    Jess, HIV, if I remember correctly, has about a 5% chance of crossing into breastmilk. Women in countries with high HIV rates are still encouraged to breastfeed because babies in those countries have a much greater risk than 5% of starving to death or dying of unsanitary water. The benefits of breastfeeding (and chance of HIV transmition) is lower than them dying of something else. In the US we don't have those other factors so that 5% chance outweighs the good. I know that mothers would not intentionally give a baby tainted breastmilk (I hope not!) but I personally wouldn't trust a complete stranger.

  11. Thank you for having a voice of reason in this story. I wonder if it were presented to 100 people without mention of names or blogs, and with the position statements from La Leche League, Milk Share and North American Bank of Human Breast Milk, what the opinions would be then? I would love to see more breast feeding advocates speak to this issue.

    I have said it directly to MckMama and I will say it here: No matter how much her heart was in the right place, it was a reckless thing to do. We can only hope that in his grief Baby M's father can sort this out and make a well informed decision about what to do with the milk that has already be given to him through the milk drive.

  12. It is an attention-seeking, promotional stunt, and no more. Why not refer her readers to make donations to the family so they can purchase milk from a real milk bank? Oh yeah, because that might not be newsworthy. She is so shallow and transparent.

  13. As I have seen MckMama raise thousands of dollars before for other causes, I would have thought it would have been a MUCH better idea to raise money so that the baby's father could PURCHASE the tested, safe milk from the milk bank.
    Now he has many bags of milk, that may or may not expire, may or may not have been handled properly... the list goes on and on.
    I feel very bad that this man and his baby have been dragged into the Mckmama madness especially during what must be intense grief.
    Sure in theory it's a GRAND idea. I just think it could have been handled so much better.

  14. I have heard a bit about this controversy going on and my first thought was that even if the breastmilk was from healthy donors, just like any milk, it is easy for it to get contaminated from unsantized handling. I have pumped myself over the years, and it is a hassle because you are supposed to sterilize everything religiously.That is why milk banks are so expensive..the high standards of cleanliness, the screening of the mothers, etc. I don't understand why McMama did not simply put the word out there to raise money, then the father could have purchased breast milk himself. It seemed like alot of extra "hoopla" to go through by having donated milk.

  15. Jess, your statement blows my mind. You just declared that you would give your baby breastmilk from an HIV infected mother before you would formula feed. Your comparison to Africa is completely invalid considering the conditions and the alternative some of those babies face. The situation here in the US is not at all like that. I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate and have done it for quite some time myself, but you better believe I would never put my baby's life at risk to avoid formula. What is the point of avoiding formula in order to make your baby healthier if it means giving them infected breastmilk that could kill them?

  16. I believe breastmilk is the ultimate best nourishment for a baby, but in response to other comments here, must say that if it was a choice between formula or possibly infected breastmilk,I would hands down opt for formula.Sometimes as a parent you have to make tough choices that are not your ideal, but a choice that is best for your child in a specific situation with all things considered. I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, and have done so with all of my children. BUT, formula is there as a second option. To act as though it is a poison that must be avoided at all costs is to act as though a wide population of people that were formula fed as babies are doomed for a life of unwellness.

  17. To the commenter(s) who indicate that baby Matthew is "in need": Unless his father is financially destitute, I don't see how this qualifies as a child "in need."

    While I don't know the particulars of his father's story, I assume he is able to purchase formula, just as he is able to purchase milk from a milk bank. I don't see the "need."

    Whether or not I believe this to be a huge publicity stunt by Jennifer McKinney is irrelevant.

    However, my opinion is that collecting breastmilk from complete strangers who, as others have said, may or may not have used sanitary collection and storage procedures, is insane and potentially puts an infant at needless risk.

  18. PLEASE tell me I didn't just read that you would give your baby breast milk from a stranger with HIV over formula? For the love of God, I can't imagine typing that. IF MckMama was doing this and not profiting from it, I might give her the benefit of the doubt. Knowing that she is making thousands of dollars from it in clicks to her blog and she hasn't offered ANY financial assistance to the Father with this money, I cannot support her at ALL. She seems to be in it for the money, in my opinion. And look at her blog...since the story broke, she's only "teased" with the story and makes you click click click coming back hoping for an update. Just my opinion (as a breastfeeding mom who is dried up!)

  19. Yes, I think it's odd that after all of this we have yet to read a detailed update on how this whole thing went down and how baby M is doing. I'm tired of all the little "teasers". I noticed today that she has reformatted her blog and removed some of the flashy advertisements so I don't know what is going on. Regardless, I hope the best for this precious little baby who is without his mommy and I just hope he is being safely nourished,whether by breastmilk OR formula. Very sad story. Makes me hug my own little ones a little tighter to me and live "in the moment" when I hear about tragedies like this.

  20. I thought it was a little strange too. Not only blood born disease but toxins from their diet could be in there. Mkmama is probably in post baby la la land. Some people cut off all their hair (me for example) others have nation wide breastmilk pumpoffs for strangers.

  21. Blaming the FATHER?
    Are you our of your mind?

    Have you ever seen someone grieve for a recently lost spouse? Or at least one in good relationship (assuming they had one). If my husband were to die, I would be out of my mind. Not able to think straight, figure anything out, and that's not even with tossing a newborn in on top of things (a totally sepatret sensation of helplessness when you bring home a newborn).

    So if you were to lose your spouse, you could figure out everything on your own, with rational thought-out actions? And you did the same with a new baby? Just figured everything out quickly and logically? That is sad. He needs a community, this is not a healthy, effective community that has been built.

    And NO. HELL. NO. We're in the United States. HIV breastmilk is not better than formula!!!! WTF is wrong with people?????

  22. wow... i'm not sure where to start! i think alot of really well thought out points have been shared here so as opposed to repeating them i will share my own experience. a few years ago a friend of mine's baby had a catastrophic brain injury at six months old. he was irreparably damaged for life. about a year into his treatment, his mother read a study that showed that children with traumatic brain injuries recovered more quickly and with a lower infection rate when given donor breastmilk. she shared this info with me one day but sadly we do not have a milk donor site in our area. she would have to drive two hours each way, not to mention the costs involved. long story short, myself and another of our close friends who was also breastfeeding at the time committed to 12 oz of milk a day for her son. he began getting it through his feeding tube and the results were really amazing. i say all of this to make these points:
    1. we were given a list of medications that pass through bm and asked to refrain from them. for me that included two prescriptions i normally took.
    2. she knew us (and our lifestyles) very well. she knew we were healthy, not drug users, drinkers, etc.
    3. while milk sharing can be a beautiful and amazing thing, done irresponsibly it can be seriously detrimental to the infant involved.

    overall, the thought was nice the but execution was careless and dangerous. i hope the family and support around this man are helping him make wise choices. overall, this baby will flourish from the love of his family and those around them. not from breast milk or formula.

    p.s. sorry for typos, nursing as i type! lol :)

  23. Wow. This is a story I've not heard of before now. Wow. I know that personally, if I were unable to nurse my baby I would have given her formula. I would have tried really hard to get her to nurse, but this is a totally different situation, obviously, as the mother is no longer around. :( That, in and of itself, is terribly sad. I'm sure the family's devastation is just impossible to describe unless you've been there yourself. As for this whole situation, without knowing all of the details I cannot make my own judgments or decisions. I think you present a great detailed account of what you know of the situation, and even then, do we truly know how all of this is going down? Can we know if we're not among the participants? Again, I haven't read anything, so I can't say much in that regard. I think that donating to a milk bank is a wonderful thing, and if someone CAN do that and chooses to, all the better. There are many babies out there that medically are determined to need breast milk to help for whatever reason. It's not a "condition," but I have certainly heard of moms unable to nurse due to illness or treatment, but still want to provide BM for their child, and they use a donation bank to do so. I don't know much about this father, but I assume he is grieving and devastated, and likely looking for whatever help he can find at this time. I am sure the gesture by McKmama is a wonderful one, and without the full details I can't say if it is appropriate or what, exactly. I'm thinking it's her way to raise awareness and try to help the dad. But whether there are ulterior motives, who is to know? Aren't there always? Or are you an optimist like I try to be and think perhaps it's done out of the goodness of her heart? Which it very well may be. Either way, I hope this baby is healthy and thriving!

  24. This is a long time late but must be said: Mckmama used milk bank milk for Maisie while pregnant with Stellan. It disappeared from her blog eventually but she did. She was even able to have it covered under insurance.

    I find it very confusing she then did this with someone else's infant.



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