Selling breast milk is a booming business here in Wisconsin
Lindsey Morone, Courtny Gerrish
Photo: Video by tmj4.com
GREEN BAY - Jessica Netzel's four-month-old Hope drinks another mother's milk. No matter how hard she tried, Jessica couldn't pump enough milk to feed Hope. She has a condition called Polysystic Ovarian Syndrome, but didn't want to turn to formula.
"It is a huge decision to make, and I didn't go into it lightly," Netzel recalls.
So after trying everything she could to get her baby breast milk, Netzel turned to the Internet. She found a posting on 'Craiglist'. That's how she came to buy milk from a mom from Greenville, Kim Doucette.
"I don't drink. I don't smoke. I think those are real important things to tell the person up front," Doucette explains.
Doucette has four kids, and is nursing a one-year-old. After going over Doucette's health history, Netzel greed to buy her breast milk.
"I gave her a pretty decent supply. Probably over a month supply for $20," Doucette says.
Netzel says at first she didn't know if she could go through with it.
"I kept going back and forth like, 'Should I? shouldn't I?', and I just had to say, 'You know what, I have to just trust she is being honest.'"
The moms say it's a "win-win". Doucette feels rewarded by helping another mother and child, and is compensated for the time and effort spent pumping the milk. Meanwhile, Netzel feeds her baby breast milk instead of formula.
But it's not the only option. Moms can go through breast milk banks. The process is more costly, and much more strict. Donor mothers like Darla Presteen are carefully screened.
"You fill out an application, you do some DNA swabs, and you have someone come to your house and actually draw blood," Presteen explains.
Green Babybeez in De Pere is a drop off site for a milk bank in Indiana, and the up-and-coming Mothers Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes for Wisconsin and Illinois. They pasteurize it, then that milk remains there until NICU's or hospitals are needing it. They then ship it out to them.
Without the screenings and pasteurization, there's no guarantee STDs, hepatitis, or other diseases wouldn't be transmitted.
Some health experts say mother-to-mother milk sharing is ethically irresponsible. But as for baby Hope, her mom says she's doing better then ever, and has no regrets. Netzel says, in her leap of faith, "It really came down to trusting. Really, 100 percent."
While hospitals do not condone mother-to-mother milk sharing, lactation consultants say breast milk is better than formula. They only recommend formula as a last resort.