Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Sharing Breastmilk in Korea: Donating and Receiving

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Updated 11 September 2018

I know that moms share breastmilk both formally and informally. As a La Leche League Leader, I can only recommend the former, however, LLL allows me to  give "information and support, including information about the benefits and risks of such practices as induced lactation, relactation, wet-nursing, or cross-nursing."

The World Health Organization says that if a baby cannot be breastfed by his or her mother, then expressed breastmilk from the baby's mother, breastmilk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breastmilk substitute should be given in that order.

Ultimately, I can provide information. It is up to you to make the decision along with your health care provider. 

Milk Banks
There are only two milk banks in Korea. In order to get milk from the milk bank, your baby has to be a preemie or have a documented illness. If you want to donate, they will require a test for STDs plus a hepatitis B vaccination. You will have to pay for both of these. I'm not sure how hard it is for non-Korean speaking foreigners to donate milk. I imagine it's like donating blood. In theory, it's possible; in practice, very difficult.
Donating milk to milk banks was in the Korean news. You can see the story here.
  • KyungHee University Hospital at Kangdong in Seoul. The phone number is 02-440-7731.
  • Iksan Jeil Hospital. The phone number is 063-840-7629, 2300
How much milk do you need?
There's an article by KellyMom which explains that babies aged 1-6 months need about 19-30 oz (570-900 ml) of breastmilk per day. Some women get milk from one other women, while others get milk from many different women. Some also supplement with formula. I do not know how much Korean milk banks charge for milk. I know in the USA, it's about $4 an ounce.

Pasteurizing the milk
In milk banks, the milk goes through a pasteurization process. That's not the case if you connect directly with another mom. You need to be able to trust the mom you get the milk from.

Some families decide to pasteurize any and all donor milk they use. Sometimes the baby doesn't like the taste of donated breastmilk. Scalding the breastmilk can help. Eats on Feets also has information on two different ways to pasteurize milk. Milkshare has good info on how to screen mothers that you're getting milk from.

Milk sharing resources, risks, and benefits
I highly encourage you to read these articles as well as do your own research before making a decision. Only you can decide what is right for you and your child.

Where to Find Breastmilk Sharing Communities in Korea
Please check the milk sharing resources mentioned above. MMKorea Nursing Support has information on how to send breastmilk. Most families will pay for the breastmilk storage bags as well as shipping costs.

Eats on Feets: Here are the current offers and requests.
Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) - South Korea: You can message this group and they will post on your behalf whether it be an offer or a request.

MMKorea Nursing Support: This is not a milk sharing group, but a peer-to-peer breastfeeding support group. With that being said, it's Korea-wide and women are usually able to help.

Local parenting or mom groups: Someone often knows someone. Some women have been known to pump specifically for another baby.

Check military groups: Often moms who PCS have to get rid of loads of milk. If you know someone who's military, ask them if they can post on your behalf.

Other Breastmilk Sharing Options: Currently Not Available in Korea
They have an email list they send out. It's geared towards women in the USA. However, maybe someone in Korea could set up something similar.
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