Thirty women have come together with a single goal: providing breast milk to a set of twins whose mother died in childbirth last November.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that after the death of Michal Lura Friedman -- a 44-year-old musician who had tried to get pregnant for seven years and then died hours after having a C-section -- a network of moms started donating on a regular enough basis that twins Reverie and Jackson, have been able to drink 80 percent breast milk.
Jay Snyder, the twins' father, told the Journal that his wife felt strongly about breastfeeding. And, because the benefits of nursing are consistently extolled by pediatricians -- just this week, the Academy of Pediatrics reinforced its policy that breastfeeding should be considered as a public health matter as opposed to a lifestyle choice – it was especially moving when a friend offered to coordinate donations for the family.
Playwright Jessica Provenz, who took this on, told the Journal that she has one or two degrees of separation with any mother who contributes. The women all live in and around New York City, pump their milk, pack it in coolers and meet Snyder for drop-offs. Provenz asks them basic medical questions, inquiring about medications they may be taking, but admitted that she is relying on good faith that the donors are healthy.
"We're happy that this is successful, but the usual recommendations for this are that donor mothers are screened," said Dr. Richard Schanler, the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' section of Breastfeeding, who emphasized the importance of following the donation procedures laid out by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. and the FDA.
The Internet has made it easy for less formal online donation networks like Milk Share and Only the Breast to serve as breast milk-classifieds, connecting mothers with potential donors, but those participating work out the donation terms on their own. The market for breast milk is so strong, that it can go for as much as $4 an ounce, giving it the nickname "liquid gold."
Nonprofit milk banks, on the other hand, like Mothers Milk, require blood testing of donors and they pasteurize milk to get rid of bacteria, which Schanler strongly recommends. Milk banks have been facing shortages, to the detriment of hospitals that rely on donations to feed premature infants. The antibodies in breast milk can help fight infection and it's easier on the digestive systems of premies than formula.
In the case of Jay Snyder, the milk is doing more than feed his twins.
"It would be very easy to just be cynical, but instead through a very tragic circumstance I've been shown the better part of human nature," Mr. Snyder told the Journal.