Eats on Feets strongly believes that “there is enough breast milk for all the babies who need it.” This sentiment is what drew Emily Cook to her voluntary position as Pennsylvania Chapter Administrator in January 2012.
Before I interviewed Emily, I did not realize she was herself a breast milk donor. What a pleasant surprise interviewing not only an Eats on Feets administrator but also a veteran breast milk donor. Emily is a stay at home mom of 4 boys ranging in ages from 18 months to 9 years.
Emily knew that she wanted to breastfeed her children from the start. When her first child was born, breastfeeding was not possible. This was devastating for Emily, and she was determined to breastfeed her next 3 children.
When Emily began breastfeeding her other children and realized she had more than enough breast milk she began donating. What a wonderful and selfless act. Emily firmly believes that “everyone can provide the benefits of breast milk to their children even if it is not theirs”.
I was extremely interested in how Eats on Feets worked. I knew they were non-profit, but I wanted to know how they kept the lights on. Emily explained that Eats on Feets is strictly online, and does not take monetary donations. All the work put into Eats on Feets is done through volunteers.
People are dedicating their own time and money to “get the word out” and help moms make informed decisions about breast milk sharing. Mothers are working selflessly to not only donate their milk, but promote breastfeeding.
According to Emily, the Eats on Feets PA Chapter has approximately 240 members, although she is not sure how many are actively donating or receiving milk. This is a grass roots organization that is built through word of mouth.
Emily said that “people are coming in (to the website) and posting regularly. There is a lot of activity. New members are constantly joining.” As an administrator, Emily shares articles, safety practices, notices, and reminders through the PA Chapter’s Facebook page. She encourages the 4 Pillars of Safe Milk Sharing as dictated by Eats on Feets.
With such a large online group, I was wondering if Eats on Feets ever organized meetings, such as support groups. Unfortunately Emily said that they do not have support groups because it is “not practical since they are all over the state.”
I personally donated to a breast milk donation bank, where my milk was transported, pasteurized, stored, and shipped to hospitals. I was curious about the advantages and disadvantages of a milk sharing situation vs. milk bank donation. Emily was more than happy to tell me why she has enjoyed donating through Eats on Feets.
The value of human interaction seems to be key. Emily said that she “preferred to see her breast milk stay local. She could make a real connection and form relationships that may even continue after the need for milk has passed.” This connection builds the potential for relationships with people in your community.
Beyond the possibility for relationships, is the value of breast milk in its raw form. The benefits of breast milk are most potent in their natural state, before pasteurization and processing. Emily cautioned me that “there are risks. We don’t pretend there aren’t. Safety is in the forefront of people’s minds.”
In order to insure safe milk sharing practices, Eats on Feets encourages recipients to request health screenings from all donors. Recipients are allowed to require any health screenings. Costs and expectations are dealt with between donor and recipient. Emily said that usually recipients are happy accepting “prenatal screenings.”
Emily described her own personal experience while donating breast milk. The first woman she donated to was a long-term recipient, receiving breast milk every 2 weeks. She said the experience was great. They had an “open and simple relationship with no extra demands. There were no complications and they were able to meet half way between their homes.”
Her other experience donating was to a friend that was sick. She gave 2 donations to her during this time.
Emily said that for every “1 person that needs milk, we need 5 donors.” That statistic was shocking and started an entire conversation about awareness and breast milk sharing. The problem is that “milk sharing does not cross people’s minds.” Emily believes it is “important to educate mainstream culture about the benefits of breast milk sharing.”
“People are more than willing to help, but we need to get the word out.” Emily wishes that “we could get more medical professionals on board.” The World Health Organization recommends donor milk as the first alternative to your own breast milk. In order for this sentiment to be shared in mainstream western culture a few steps need to be taken. Education, awareness, and removing the stigma of sharing breast milk needs to be accomplished.
Eats on Feets Resources:
- WHO guidelines for exercising feeding options
- Why breastmilk?
- How can Breastmilk be pasteurized at home?
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