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Can’t nurse? There are breastmilk options

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should be exclusively fed breastmilk for the first six months of their lives. They went on to say you should combine solid foods with breast milk for the first year. But what happens if you can't breastfeed?

What to Expect lists six reasons preventing you from nursing. Then there are other challenges related to adoption and surrogacy that affect whether or not you can nurse the baby you now hold in your arms. Some of these, of course, can be prevented, but others cannot. So what do you do if you can't nurse, but don't want to feed your baby formula?

  • Breast reduction surgery removes breast tissue that contains milk glands and ducts. That means you'll have a low supply of breast milk and won't make enough to feed your baby for the recommended 12 months.
  • An HIV diagnosis doesn't prevent you from breastfeeding, but you shouldn't try it as the disease can be passed to your child through the milk.
  • As well, a serious disease such as a cancer or heart disease, isn't good for the baby.
  • If you have a serious infection, such as tuberculosis, the baby's health could be at risk.
  • If you are receiving radiation, taking medications, or have a drug or alcohol addiction, you should not nurse.
  • While it's okay to breastfeed if you smoke, you shouldn't light up at least an hour and a half before feeding.

Breastmilk options

There are a few things you want to keep in mind as you look for a breast milk replacement. Buying milk from a stranger, your neighbor, or off the Internet is a bad idea. When you donate through Helping Hands, for instance, we subject milk to a battery of tests, including viruses and bacteria.

We screen for illicit drug and alcohol use, non-human milk spiking, and dilution. And we take a cheek swab to create a DNA identify profile. Later, when mom ships in her donation, the DNA in the breastmilk is matched to the identity profile to ensure the milk is from the donor who was screened. In the event you want to buy donated milk, talk to your pediatrician to learn about obtaining donor milk for your baby.

The milk we collect through Helping Hands and our other milk banks is used only for premature babies who are hospitalized in the NICU. But this comes with a warning: Buying donated breast milk is expensive. In some cases, your pediatrician will write a prescription and insurance will cover the expense.