When Donor Milk is No Different than Formula

In some ways donor milk is no different than infant formula.

After you’re done getting very VERY angry at me, let me clarify. I am not talking about nutritive content and health value. I’m talking about the impact that donor milk can have on a woman’s breastfeeding relationship and how the baby is fed.

Used correctly, it is a godsend. Used incorrectly it is just as much sabotage as infant formula.

But how could that be? It’s breastmilk!

When the baby’s mother has died, when the baby’s mother has cancer and must have chemotherapy, when the baby’s mother has hypoplastic breasts or has had a breast reduction, when baby was born early and mom is genuinely struggling to pump.. Donor milk is a clear cut choice. In those situations infant formula would also be a clear cut choice.

However, I’m seeing an influx of moms that want to use donor milk because they want to be able to go out but have a hard time pumping. Or their baby is fussy and they think that their supply is low. Or because their baby is in a lower percentile and their doctor is pushing them to supplement.

So mom starts off giving baby three ounces per day of donor milk in a bottle.

And then mom makes three ounces less per day of her own milk.

And whatever started the issue off in the first place stays the same.

And baby’s symptoms often stay the same.

So three ounces goes up to six ounces, and mom’s supply goes down again. And again. Until baby’s reliant on donor milk for 100% of what her baby needs each day.

If mom has a constant donor that is willing to continue pumping baby’s daily needs each day until baby hits whatever mom’s original goal was.. Great. No harm no foul (other than baby getting different antibodies than what baby needs, and other than baby consuming frozen milk rather than fresh..)

Donor milk is not an easy thing to come by, though. Moms have to scramble and pay shipping costs and drive long distances.

Whenever mom has large amounts of milk stored away there is the temptation to use that milk whenever there is an issue of convenience. It doesn’t matter if that milk is infant formula, donor milk, or even milk that mom pumped early on in the breastfeeding relationship. Using milk that mom is not pumping to replace DIMINISHES MOM’S SUPPLY.

Donor milk should not be used lightly. Unfortunately it is being used lightly.

When donor milk is used because of a real problem, it helps a mother avoid infant formula. When donor milk is used because of a transient issue where supplementation was not truly needed.. It can force a mother to wean prematurely and to use infant formula.

Understand this if you use donor milk. And understand this when you do peer donation. Do not sabotage yourself, and do not provide your milk without making sure that the recipient’s caregivers understand how to supplement rather than replace baby’s mom’s milk.

7 thoughts on “When Donor Milk is No Different than Formula

  1. Thanks for mentionning breast reduction! I thought I would have to supplement because of it but thanks to galagtagouges and DPD I was blessed with a full supply :-) Due to slow let downs though I did have to supplement but I used my own milk and an at breast supplementor and we are still going strong after 12 months!

    1. I love hearing the success stories. :)

      Have you heard of “Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding after Breast Reduction Surgery”? I see it recommended a lot on the forums. Although after 12 months it sounds like you have defined your success! :)

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