A mixed-methods observational study of human milk sharing communities on Facebook

Breastfeed Med. 2014 Apr;9(3):128-34. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2013.0114. Epub 2014 Feb 3.


Objectives: The Food and Drug Administration discourages the casual sharing of human milk because of the risk of pathogen transmission. No information is currently available on the prevalence of this practice. The purpose of this mixed-methods observational study is to describe the size and activity of online milk sharing communities.

Materials and methods: Data for 3 months were extracted from nine public Facebook pages that facilitate the exchange of human milk. The numbers of participants, interactions, and comments were analyzed.

Results: We observed 954 individuals participating in milk sharing. The number of interactions per individual ranged from none to 16 (mean, 1.74 ± 1.65). Top reasons that participants requested milk included "lactation problems" (69.4%) and "child health problems" (48.5%). Nearly half of donors were offering 100 ounces or more, which is the minimum to be eligible to donate to nonprofit milk banks.

Conclusions: Milk sharing networks in the United States are active, with thousands of individuals participating in the direct exchange of raw human milk. Public health issues include increasing the supply of pasteurized donor milk for fragile infants, increasing breastfeeding support, and helping milk sharing families appropriately manage risks.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Female
  • Food Handling / standards*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Milk Banks*
  • Milk, Human / microbiology*
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Nutritive Value
  • Peer Group
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Health*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support*
  • Temperature
  • Tissue Donors
  • United States