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FDA Weighs In as Sharing of Breast Milk Booms
Date:12/10/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Human milk has long been considered nature's ideal nourishment for babies.

But some breast-feeding experts and advocates disagree whether breast-milk banks -- the subject of fresh scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- should remain unregulated or whether lactating mothers should share their milk with needy infants at all.

An FDA panel of experts said earlier this week that, pending further study, the nation's milk banks should be allowed to go unregulated. That means that the largely nonprofit operations can continue to operate without government intervention -- providing millions of ounces of screened, processed milk each year to premature and sick babies.

"I think it's wonderful the FDA is looking at milk banking," said Dr. Ruth Lawrence, professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and immediate past chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics executive committee section on breast-feeding.

"Were talking about a precious bodily fluid that can save babies' lives," she said. "We have to regulate that."

Not everyone is accessing donor breast milk through reputable milk banks with screening processes in place. Some, instead, are turning to the Web. Just last week, the FDA angered advocates of these more informal, Internet-based networks for sharing breast milk by issuing a warning against "feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet" because of the risk for disease or contamination from drugs, germs or chemicals.

To the founders of Eats on Feets, a five-week-old global networking site that facilitates milk sharing through regional chapter pages on Facebook, the U.S. government's admonishment was seen as not only intrusive but demeaning.

Noting the centuries-old tradition of "wet nurses," women who filled in
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