Moms donate breast milk to help babies in need

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- There's a growing trend of mothers selling their extra breast milk online, but there's a safer alternative in Houston.

There is a special milk bank program at Texas Children's Hospital that is closely monitored and helps feed premature babies.

A mother with a newborn set of twins born prematurely at the hospital couldn't breast feed them right away. They came into the world at just 1 lb. 6 oz. each.

In what she calls a life or death decision, Rebecca Schiff decided to feed her babies with another mother's breast milk. Now baby girl Elliot is more than 2 lbs. Elliot's twin brother Jonah is well over 3 lbs. now.

While breastfeeding her own daughter, Ava, Savanna Bowman had plenty leftover. She donated 360 oz. of her breast milk over six months for mothers she has never met.

"To picture your breast milk, something you worked to pump and is coming out of your body and so intimate between you and your child and for a another baby to have that, it is strange," Bowman said. "You have to think of the good of the child and how great it is that they are receiving this and then it just goes away."

Texas Children's runs Houston's only milk bank. Milk is screened just like blood donations and stored in large refrigerators and freezers. The women who donate do not receive any monetary compensation for doing so.

"They only get the compensation of knowing they did something really amazing for their community that only a Mom that has a new baby can do," said donation coordinator Laurel Laviolette.

For Schiff, choosing donor milk was an easy decision. Her babies needed breast milk nutrients that doctors say protects them from dangerous infections and diseases. She says without the donor milk, her children would not be as healthy as they are now.

"They would be still very underweight, they would have all sorts of complications," Schiff said.

There are plenty of places to buy breast milk online, ABC-13 even found some for sale on Craig's List. However, doctors warn that if the milk is not screened properly it could be risky for a baby.

For more on the Texas Children's Hospital Mothers' Milk Bank, click here.

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