Support NJ milksharing families: Stop Bill A3702

New Jersey state representatives are due to vote on legislation which will spend money on a campaign to simply warn about the "dangers of casual milksharing" with no information on the promotion of safer milksharing practices.

This bill will not improve the health of babies or help the hundreds of families already practicing milksharing in NJ. Money should not be spent on a campaign that warns without educating, especially when milksharing families and researchers currently exploring milksharing safety and risk were not consulted. Milksharing families need support to make informed choices, not campaigns that attempt to scare them.

Say NO to Bill A3702. Say YES to legislation that includes milksharing families in all bills related to milksharing.

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Media Contacts:
Rebecca McCloskey, MSW, LCSW (MIlksharing donor and recipient)  973-876-4283 |
Maria Cucco Parlapiano, RN, IBCLC (Milksharing recipient)  973-738-0948 |

On behalf of milksharing families, we ask you to vote against bill A3702, which proposes a campaign to raise awareness about the "dangers of milksharing."

We thank the Women and Children Committee for their tireless work to improve the lives of babies and children and we appreciate the inclusion of milksharing in the public agenda. However, the focus of this bill is on the dangers of milksharing instead of the promotion of safer milksharing practices as part of a healthy infant feeding strategy. We are also concerned that milksharing families and researchers currently exploring milksharing safety and risk were not consulted when the bill was drafted. As it stands, the bill will not improve the health of babies or reduce risk for the many New Jersey families already practicing milksharing, and we are concerned about the expenditure of resources on a campaign that warns without educating.

Thousands of families across the United States of America are using milksharing networks. These families believe they are making a healthy infant feeding choice and they will not stop using donor milk because of warnings that are not always based on evidence and do not provide advice on reducing risk. In recent years, the federal government and many states have spent billions of dollars on prohibition and abstinence campaigns on a number of health issues. Research shows proscription has not reduced risky behaviors, and has even resulted in an escalation of dangerous practices as a result of lack of information on safety and harm reduction. It would be unfortunate if the state of New Jersey were to follow the path of an abstinence-only campaign, when this methodology has proven itself to be ineffective and a misuse of resources. Already scarce resources could be allocated towards reducing the risks of milksharing, or even towards more effectively protecting and promoting breastfeeding. We know that not breastfeeding increases the risk of disease and even death, and is a burden on the health care system. The next best thing to breastfeeding, when mother's own milk is not available, is donor milk from another healthy mother, and supporting this crucial option will continue to reduce the negative impact of formula feeding on infant and child health.

A pediatric cost analysis published in the journal Pediatrics in 2010 revealed that in the United States, 900 babies die every year from complications of infant formula feeding. The risks of formula feeding include but are not limited to: increased susceptibility to bacteria and disease, higher risk of a wide variety of mild and severe health problems including middle ear infections, eczema, gastrointestinal infections, lower respiratory tract diseases, asthma, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome, possible contamination of infant formula during the manufacturing process (cronobacter, formerly E. sakazakii, which has caused the death of infants, Salmonella outbreaks), and contamination or bacterial growth due to improper preparation, storage and handling of infant formula. Many parents do not follow the safety guidelines for powdered infant formula preparation provided by the CDC because they conflict with labeling information and are not readily known to parents. In 2001, the USDA concluded that if exclusive breastfeeding rates were increased to 75 percent at birth and 50 percent at six months, it would lead to a national government savings of $3.6 billion or more. The cost of treating respiratory viruses resulting from formula feeding is $225 million a year. Every year, $578 million in federal funds buys formula for babies who could be nourished by human milk. The lives of hundreds of babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if most babies were fed human milk, the biological norm for infant feeding.

A study in the journal Pediatrics, released on October 21, 2013 and widely covered in news media tells us that even in the most reckless circumstances (unscreened milk, purchased and shipped across country without proper refrigeration) the highest risk found in the samples of purchased human milk is an increased presence of harmful bacteria. This risk can be reduced by properly educating mothers about safe pumping and storage of human milk. Other risks such as viral disease transmission can be reduced or virtually eliminated through appropriate screening and home pasteurization methods that have been proven effective, simple and are readily available. We believe the risks of informed milksharing can be managed and reduced through education and effective support; however, extensive research shows the same does not hold true for the risks associated with formula feeding, which come mostly in the form of health consequences that financially burden the public health system.

Again, we thank the Women and Children Committee for improving the lives of babies and children, and we agree that milksharing is an important topic for the public health agenda. However, this bill works against the committee’s goals and we therefore ask the members of the assembly to vote against it. For the future, the milksharing community remains available to discuss effective measures and bills relating to safe milksharing, so together we can advance legislation that allocates resources effectively to ensure the protection of the women and children of New Jersey.

All those in support of New Jersey Milksharing Families

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