Wanting to be a midwife, when I come across articles such as this I’m forced to sit up and really think about the values I want to take into my future career. Alicia Silverstone recently launched a breastmilk sharing bank/forum on her blog for vegan parents. “Hooray!” some would say, and to an extent I agree. The choices a parental unit makes for their offspring is completely up to them (obviously to a certain extenet, as medical diagnosis, etc has a role to play as well). As a parent, you a responsible for this tiny human being and it is your job to make sure that they are safe and well for as long as you can. Therefore, what I don’t understand is why something as important as a feeding source would not be regulated.
Breastmilk is one of the biggest sources of vital and necessary minerals, vitamins and nutrients for a baby. I’m not saying that those mothers who don’t want to or can’t breastfeed are any less of a mother than one who does or can – again it’s a choice a parent makes and as long as it’s informed and something they are comfortable with, I fully support them. But like any bodily fluid or particle, it also has the propensity to carry and pass on bacteria and viruses. Consider it this way:
You are given two glasses of water. The first has come from a sealed bottle of Evian. The second has been scooped out of a puddle of water found on the side of the road. Which would you drink?
I would place bets on 10 out of 10 people choosing option 1. Option 2 is a risky option – there cold be spit, blood, dirt, petrol, faeces, who knows what in it. And quite rightly, you do not want to risk ingesting something that could threaten your health and general wellbeing. And this is exactly what providing an unregulated forum that is sharing a vital food source that comes from a woman’s body. It’s almost as a sidenote at the end of the blogpost that it states “…common sense precautions should be taken.” No, it’s not just common sense precautions. If you are going to share breastmilk, you need to take a full health MOT and have yourself and your milk screened thoroughly. Breastmilk is just as capable of passing on viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis A and B, Herpes simplex and TB as unprotected sex and blood-to-blood or close bodily-fluid contact. Milk Banks go through rigourous screening processes to ensure what they give to babies in hospital and parents to give their children is safe. At the end of the day what we all want, whether we have children or not, is for the next generation to have the best possible start in life.
So does anyone have ideas of how to set up a regulated vegan breastmilk bank? Although these options are available through the milk banks already, the supply is generally going to be lower than that of donating women who do not have a specific lifestyle or dietary choice. I’ll personally be keeping an eye on this specific subject, and if there are any developments in the service I will be posting them here. Let me know if you know of any services that offer something as specific as this but is regulated. Sharing is always welcome here!