“It’s more than milk, it’s mental health”: a case of online human milk sharing

Wagg, Amanda J., Hassett, Alexander and Callanan, Margie M. (2022) “It’s more than milk, it’s mental health”: a case of online human milk sharing. International Breastfeeding Journal, 17 (1). p. 5. ISSN 1746-4358

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13006-021-00445-6


Background- Milk sharing is not a new concept and occurs today via regulated human milk banks and unregulated online milk sharing groups. Exploring and understanding how, and why, mothers use these peers to peer milk sharing groups, is a vehicle to understanding how breastfeeding mothers can be tangibly supported online, adding to the literature on peer milk sharing, from a recipient’s perspective. This research presents a single case example of an online breastfeeding support group use, through one mother’s experiencing of seeking human donor milk. Method- This is a qualitative, exploratory study observing the attitudes, thoughts, and feelings of one mother who is seeking human donor milk through online groups. A single key case was identified, and the participant was asked to document thoughts and feelings as she searched for milk online. A telephone interview was conducted after two months, and the online page activity from the Human Milk for Human Babies Facebook group was captured for the week following the interview. The results were presented in a chronological and linear analytical approach adopting pattern matching. Results- ‘Abbi’ is a mother who has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and subsequent low milk supply and sought donor breastmilk online. Online support groups introduced her to donor milk sharing, which not only supported her breastfeeding but supported her own mental health. Abbi talks of the need to build a trusting relationship with her donor, due to the lack of regulation, and the positive impact it had for her and ‘Lucas’, her baby. Conclusion- Considering milk sharing groups simply as tangible online support ignores the complexities around Abbi’s decision to use human donor milk. Peer milk sharing online is an option for mothers, but it is surrounded by stigma amongst other mothers, professionals, and even within pro breastfeeding support groups.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Human milk sharing, Online milk sharing, Online social support groups, Online support, Tangible online support
Faculty: Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine & Social Care
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2022 16:45
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 16:21
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/707250

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