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CT mothers exchange breast milk online

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MOOSUP, CT (WFSB) -

A woman from Moosup said she's not a formula mother.

Sherry Harmon said the only way to get her son enough breast milk was to seek help from donors.

"The great thing about breast milk is that it has all those natural antibodies," Harmon said.

Harmon turned to a Facebook forum called "Human Milk for Human Babies Global Network."

That's where she said she found many families posting ads seeking and sharing breast milk. She met Jenn Porter there.

"My role is the donor," said Porter, of Uncasville. "I pump the milk and give it to a mother and child in need."

She and Harmon said they were first time mothers of baby boys, 1-year-old Calvin and 20-month-old Corbin.

"I have the extra milk and I believe in breast milk," Porter said.

Harmon said she was forced to look for other options after she could not produce enough milk and Corbin's lip never latched properly.

Porter offered to top him off.

"It was the first time he had a full stomach," said Harmon.

Ever since, she said she's used different breast milk sharing websites and about 30 different donors.

Harmon said she traveled to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey.

One trip, she brought home 150 frozen ounces of Porter's milk.

The two now work together exclusively.

"Me personally, I wouldn't give any milk to somebody I wouldn't feel comfortable giving my own child," said Porter.

The women said they were diligent screeners, always cautious and careful when it came to choosing the mothers with which they worked.

"I ask them tons of questions," Harmon said. "I ask them if they've got any prenatal blood tests for HIV and hepatitis, if they have those records."

Harmon and Porter said they were comfortable enough with each other so neither thought it was necessary for Porter to provide medical paperwork.

"I was ready to produce those documents," Porter said. "I have everything on hand, blood tests. For pure to pure donation, we don't pasteurize, like at milk banks."

"I don't feel the need to have it tested," Harmon said. "I take them at their word. Their milk is safe."

However, some doctors said they're worried.

"We need to be concerned that this may not be the safest thing out there," said Dr. Karen Marinelli, a neonatologist and lactation specialist at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center.

Marinelli was also a member of the Human Milk Research Center at CCMC and chairs the United States Breast Feeding Committee.

"In today's world, without the proper testing and processing of the milk, which is the pasteurizing of the milk, you can never be sure what's in that milk you are getting from the donor," she said.

Marinelli said there were concerns with the spread of infection, disease and the potential for chemical contamination.

"There's lots of reasons why we worry about women who get milk from the Internet and use it for their own babies," she explained. "All the medical professions have come out with statements saying they do not approve of the use of milk that we call as 'shared casually,'"

However, Harmon said she's also a lactation specialist.

"Will I stop? Not a chance," she said. "Not a chance."

"I don't think I would change anything," Porter said.

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