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Some Moms Who Can't Nurse Bank On Breast Milk Sharing

7:28 AM, Aug 13, 2012   |    comments
Tegan Beyer feeds her daughter, Joslyn, a bottle of donated breast milk. Beyer was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is recovering from a bilateral mastectomy (JOHN ZIOMEK/Courier-Post)
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(THE COURIER-POST) -- Tegan Beyer doesn't want her baby to drink formula. Not no way. Not no how.

The 34-year-old married mother of two has a track record on this issue. When she had her son, Talon, four years ago, she wasn't able to get him to nurse at the breast. So she pumped her milk every three hours around the clock, producing enough to keep him well fed from a bottle. She pumped for 20 months.

When daughter Joslyn arrived in January and successfully latched on the first try, it was a joyous event.

"I produced a lot of milk," said Beyer, a tattoo artist who lives in Mount Laurel. "I was made for making milk."

But Beyer can't nurse her baby anymore. On June 6, a suspicious lump she discovered in her breast shortly after Joslyn's birth was at last diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinoma. She was ordered to stop nursing her baby immediately and prepare for more tests, surgery and chemotherapy.

Beyer called her friend, Cristin Mahoney of Cherry Hill, a breastfeeding mom whose youngest daughter is just three months older than Joslyn.

"She asked me if I had any breast milk," said Mahoney. "I did have 32 ounces in my freezer, so I got that over to her. Since then, I've been pumping every night," enough to provide one bottle for Joslyn each day.

It was the beginning of a monumental effort by a local community of breastfeeding mothers and their supporters. Since then, Beyer's baby has been fed with donated breast milk collected through a closed group on Facebook.

"People have come out of the woodwork," said Beyer, during a phone interview from her hospital bed where she was battling an infection following a bilateral mastectomy. "She drinks 30 ounces a day right now."

It's called informal milk sharing - informal because the donated milk is not screened, tested or processed to ensure it does not contain viruses, harmful bacteria, medications or illegal drugs. Instead, the arrangement relies on honesty, openness and trust between its donors and recipients.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend babies drink breast milk for at least one year, both organizations recommend against informal milk sharing.

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