Mums let generosity flow

19:15, Sep 08 2012
Louise Bell
MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS: Louise Bell with Lucas, 7 months, and Ruby-Jae, 4.

"I have 2 litres in my deep-freezer," a mum offers. "Hang in there. Will start expressing ASAP," says another.

The pleas of a breast cancer sufferer who underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy are answered.

Mothers are joining forces on social networks to share goodwill - or breast-milk to be exact.

The Government shut down breast-milk banks in the 1980s following fears over the spread of HIV and hepatitis, but hospitals and community groups are keeping the generosity flowing.

Mothers-in-need post their request on a Facebook group. Breast-feeding mums respond by offering frozen litres of milk.

Wellington mother Louise Bell has exclusively fed her 7-month-old son Lucas on other women's breast-milk. Lucas was born through a surrogate, and daughter Ruby-Jae, 4, is adopted.


"I have donor women all over New Zealand," she said. "It just blows me away the effort women put in. Nobody is doing this for money - everybody is doing it out of kindness. They want to help other children."

Mothers returning to work, cancer sufferers and those who struggle to produce milk are among those using the service.

As well as being extra nutritious for her son, Bell said using breast-milk is easier on the wallet.

The Facebook group does warn mothers of the risks and women can ask donors to undergo a screening test.

The Ministry of Health confirmed there are no plans for a formal breast-milk bank, however, some hospitals offer donor milk for babies.

This includes Canterbury District District Health Board, which is in the process of setting up a more formal milk bank for mothers.

But one of the woman behind Mothers' Milk NZ is calling on the Government to get behind the initiative.

"We call it liquid gold. It's so beneficial for babies. To have a breast-milk bank would reduce our rate of formula use," spokeswoman Emma Ryburn said.

New Zealand lags behind other developed nations that have established milk banks.

Eats on Feet is another Facebook group helping to share breast-milk.

Spokeswoman Zoe Reid set up the Facebook page to reach more women.

Every cry for milk is met by about three donors, but Reid said women need up to eight regular donors to exclusively breastfeed.

Some women offer up whole freezers full of milk.

"It just blows us away. It's such an amazing and beautiful thing to do for the community."

Mother's Milk NZ plans to launch a fundraising drive on September 25 in Auckland to boost their network and resources.

Sunday Star Times