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LA LECHE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL OFFERS GUIDELINES ON HUMAN MILK SHARING

In March 2011, the LLLI Board of Directors adopted the following policy regarding the donation of human milk:

Donating Human Milk

La Leche League International fully supports the use of human milk for babies. The first priority of LLLI is to help mothers breastfeed their babies. A second priority is helping mothers to express and safely store their own milk for their babies. When their own mother's milk is unavailable, babies may need human milk donated by other mothers. It is essential that this donated milk be safe.

As an international organization, LLLI is aware that many mothers in many cultures have informally shared their breastmilk and wet nursed among family members and trusted friends. LLLI also recognizes that in times of severe maternal illness/death and natural disaster, sharing milk has been lifesaving. The latter special circumstances, however, are beyond the scope of this policy statement. In keeping with the recommendations of the Health Advisory Council of the LLLI Professional Advisory Board, LLLI has developed stringent guidelines concerning the collection and use of donated human milk.

When a mother contacts a Leader seeking donated human milk, the Leader shall respond with information and support. This shall include information about induced lactation and/or relactation. The Leader shall also suggest the mother dialogue with an appropriate, licensed health care provider and contact a licensed human milk bank or other regulated and medically supervised human milk collection center in her country. The Leader shall inform any mother interested in using donated human milk for her baby, whether on an occasional or on a long term basis, of the documented benefits and risks connected with this form of infant feeding. Benefits include, but are not limited to: optimal nutrition, easy digestibility, and immunologic protection. Risks can include, but are not limited to: transmission of certain infectious agents, like bacteria or viruses, some of which may be found in milk expressed by asymptomatic women; drugs; possibly some environmental contaminants, and potentially unhygienic storage and handling of unprocessed donated milk. Milk from a qualified milk bank will require donors meet specific health requirements before accepting their donated milk, which eliminates many of those risks. Each country sets its own standards for milk donors and these screening criteria are available by contacting the milk banks directly. If a mother is interested in donating her milk, a Leader shall provide contact information for licensed human milk banks or other regulated and medically supervised collection centers. A Leader shall never pressure a mother to donate or to continue donating her milk. All identifying information concerning the donors and recipients shall remain confidential. A Leader shall remind a potential donor mother that her own baby has a natural priority to her milk. A Leader shall inform a potential donor that: 1) a donor may request complete information from the milk bank or collection center about how her milk will be used; 2) a donor may inquire if she may restrict how her milk will be used; 3) a donor may make her decision about donation in the light of the information she receives from the milk bank or collection center.

A Leader shall never initiate the suggestion of an informal milk-donation arrangement or act as an intermediary in such a situation. If a mother wishes to discuss these options - which may include donating expressed milk, wet-nursing or cross-nursing - the Leader's role is to provide information about the benefits and risks, as mentioned above, including the limitations of home sterilization of expressed breastmilk. If the baby is hospitalized, the mother is directed to dialogue with the medical staff caring for her regarding hospital policies on providing human milk for a baby in their care. The mother will then make her own informed decision based on her situation and culture.

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