Should you accept breast milk from another mum since your supply is low?
It depends on how much you trust the source, says Dr Natalie Epton, a specialist paediatrician and neonatologist.
Although breast milk is the ideal nutrition for babies, it can also be contaminated with infections. HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other viruses can be transmitted via such milk.
A mother is tested for HIV and hepatitis B carriage during pregnancy, so you can perhaps ask her status – if you feel brave enough, she adds.
Other lesser known viruses not routinely tested include cytomegalovirus, which can make newborns unwell.
Many countries have “milk banks”, which offer supply from mothers who have been screened for serious viral illnesses. The milk is also usually pasteurised to prevent transmission of bacterial and fungal infections.
[UPDATE: KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital has launched Singapore’s first breast milk donation bank. Find out more here.]
A final factor to consider is the age of the donor’s baby, Dr Epton says.
Breast milk is marvellous – the constituents are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of a growing infant up to two years.
As a result, breast milk from a mum feeding a two-year-old is unlikely to be nutritionally perfect for a newborn.