Human Milk Handling and Storage Practices Among Peer Milk-Sharing Mothers

J Hum Lact. 2017 Feb;33(1):173-180. doi: 10.1177/0890334416678830. Epub 2016 Dec 15.


Background: Peer milk sharing, the noncommercial sharing of human milk from one parent or caretaker directly to another for the purposes of feeding a child, appears to be an increasing infant-feeding practice. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning against the practice, little is known about how people who share human milk handle and store milk and whether these practices are consistent with clinical safety protocols. Research aim: This study aimed to learn about the milk-handling practices of expressed human milk by milk-sharing donors and recipient caretakers. In this article, we explore the degree to which donors and recipients adhere to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine clinical recommendations for safe handling and storage.

Methods: Online surveys were collected from 321 parents engaged in peer milk sharing. Univariate descriptive statistics were used to describe the safe handling and storage procedures for milk donors and recipients. A two-sample t-test was used to compare safety items common to each group. Multivariate ordinary least squares regression analysis was used to examine sociodemographic correlates of milk safety practices within the sample group.

Results: Findings indicate that respondents engaged in peer milk sharing report predominantly positive safety practices. Multivariate analysis did not reveal any relationship between safety practices and sociodemographic characteristics. The number of safe practices did not differ between donors and recipients.

Conclusion: Parents and caretakers who participate in peer human milk sharing report engaging in practices that should reduce risk of bacterial contamination of expressed peer shared milk. More research on this particular population is recommended.

Keywords: breastfeeding; donor milk; human milk; milk handling practices; milk safety; milk sharing; milk storage practices.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Female
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Food Handling / standards*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Milk Banks*
  • Milk, Human
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Peer Group*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires