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Breastfeeding coalition warns of health hazards from informal sharing of breast milk

The Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon issued a statement this week warning women about the health risks of informal sharing of mother’s milk, saying the practice could spread infectious diseases to infants.

Instead, the coalition urges women to donate milk to the newly opened Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, a nonprofit in the Cedar Hills area west of Portland.

In an urban area like Portland, where ecofriendly, do-it-yourself practices have flourished, some women have taken to offering their surplus breast milk to other moms who aren’t able to breastfeed, in hopes of providing a nutritious alternative to baby formula. Advocates of this informal sharing of breast milk also point to the relatively high cost of getting breast milk from new milk banks.

“The Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon recognizes the culture of helping one another that is expressed when women share human milk,” the coalition says in a statement issued Tuesday. But the coalition notes that the milk isn’t screened or pasteurized, and harmful bacteria can get into the donated milk supply due to improper breast-pumping or storing techniques. Other substances such as alcohol and prescription medicines also can be transmitted unknowingly from the donors to infants via donated milk.

In its statement, the Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon raises concerns that problems arising from using donated milk may cause other mothers to refrain from using breast milk, despite its superior nutritious value and other health benefits for infants.

The Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, located at 417 SW 117th Ave., Suite 105,. can be reached at 503-469-0955 or http://www.nwmmb.org.

For more information on the breastfeeding coalition: www.breastfeedingor.org.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .