However, due to limited supplies and challenges with distribution, this milk must currently be prioritized for premature and ill infants, leaving many parents to seek other options.
Informal (or peer-to-peer) human milk sharing has been a phenomenon across cultures and throughout history. However, it has recently become a more prominent issue for health care providers due to increased public awareness of the impact of human milk on an infant's long-term health and well-being, together with the increased connectivity available to individuals via social media.
While it is not the role of health care providers to promote informal milk sharing, to help parents make an informed decision, they must be able to discuss evidence-based information on the risks and benefits of all infant feeding options, including the use of unpasteurized donor milk.
A Perinatal Services BC and BC Baby-Friendly Network working group is developing a toolkit for health care providers on the use of unpasteurized donor human milk, based on the principles of patient-centered care, informed shared decision making, and harm reduction. Through a survey, the working group is seeking to gain insight into health care providers' experience with informal milk sharing, including availability of resources to support of families who are contemplating or have chosen this option.
We encourage all health care providers to complete the Informal Milk Sharing Survey.