Moms Sharing Milk On The Black Market

By Arezow Doost, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A few months ago Candice Hankins of Grand Prairie and Leslie Westenhaver of Mesquite were strangers, until they met on Facebook.

One had something the other desperately needed.  “It’s hard when you can’t  – you are not capable of feeding your own child by yourself,” says Hankins who has a 6-month-old and 2-and-a-half year old.

Hankins turned to Eats on Feets, a new online group that connects mothers in need of breast milk with donors willing to provide it.
There’s no regulation, no screening and no fees.

The group has chapters in 50 states and was started by women in Montreal and Phoenix.  “Someone has the need and I have the milk,” explains Leslie Westenhaver “We meet up and we sit and talk at Starbucks or we meet at their home and I drop off the milk it’s a just a way to bless them.”

The mom of four isn’t just feeding her youngest Clara, who is 5 months old, but Candice’s 6-month-old daughter Avery too.  She’s been doing it for the last several months.

Tuesday she brought Hankins 100 ounces of milk – packed in small frozen bags.

Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas says causal sharing can be risky.  At its lab in Fort Worth the non-profit screens breast milk for diseases and pasteurizes it before it is even made available.

There’s a processing fee of $3.75 an ounce.  “Really the only safe way to do it is through a milk bank,” explains Amy Manning Vickers with Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas “There is a risk you are taking by using the milk of someone you don’t know.”

At the milk bank the priority is given to infants who are very sick and can’t nurse.  A doctor’s prescription is required to get the milk.
70% of the milk goes to hospitals in not just Texas, but Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“I really did not feel right donating my milk and then having another mom having to pay for it and give it to her baby,” says Westenhaver.

Donors like Westenhaver say she always makes her blood work available and urges moms using “Eats on Feets” to ask for a healthy history.

“There is nothing I could do to thank her adequately,” says Hankins.


One Comment

  1. SouthernByGrace says:

    Come on Karen, don’t show ignorance. The lead-in to this story that sharing mother’s milk is “new” is just factually incorrect. Remember the term, wet nurse?

    1. Kaysa Lacy says:


  2. Linda says:

    Are you kidding me??? The technology advancements made today in the formulas available across the country are probably better for your baby than breast milk from some stranger. Every mother is very capable of feeding her child! What a dumb statement to make – Incredible!

    1. Candice says:

      To each her own Linda,,,,,but I will say this. Ive never had bug parts in my milk a la Similac.

    2. Emily says:

      ‘Some Stranger’ is actually another mother who takes the time and effort to pump milk for free to give to another child. No one would do that if they weren’t sure they were healthy. All woman receive extensive testing (mandated by the state) during pregnancy and can provide that information with their donated milk.

      I also have to wonder if the NTX milk bank is making a big deal about it because it will lead their donations to shrink.

    3. Michelle says:

      Your comment offended me a bit. Not every woman is capable of breastfeeding. I went through a time where I wasn’t making enough milk for my baby, and needed to suppliment and he wouldn’t take formula. I used donated milk. There was a mom that I donated to when my second son was a baby. She had a pituitary gland issue, that prevented her from making enough milk to feed her child, and that baby was allgergic or intollerant to EVERY SINGLE formula they tried, even the “hypo-allergenic” stuff. As for donated milk, any lactating mother can walk into a lab and get a work up done, get a print out of it, and share it with women they are donating too. The woman I got my milk from did it, so I knew she was safe.

    4. Jen S. says:

      You really did not just say that formula is better than breast milk – of any form – did you? If you are that ignorant to begin with, you need to go away and leave the few good people left in this country alone. Technology… why do you WANT technology associated with feeding an infant child? Technology and chemicals is all formula is. Every time I’ve given my son some freebie formula I just wanted to use up, I cringe a little bit because I have NO Idea what’s actually in that stuff. Bug parts or not. Giving my son formula would have to be an absolute LAST resort of any kind, it makes me cringe just thinking about it!

    5. Laura stead says:

      Formula has 40 non-living ingredients. Breast milk has 300 living components. So ignorant of you to even compare!

  3. Candice says:

    Just fyi. CBS…..look up “Flash Heating Breast Milk” to find out about home pasteurization……this method has been studied and proven to kill the HIV virus and is being utilized in Africa to prevent Mother to Child Transmission of HIV. And if that doesn’t help you, please keep in mind a donor mom is feeding her baby the exact same milk being given to a recipient (not bought, as your biased title would suggest).

    1. Joy says:

      Thank you for TRUTH Candice!!!! Too bad CBS doesn’t care if they report facts or fiction.

  4. monie127 says:

    Oh my gosh i totally agree. Have you not had a history class? have you been living in a cave? We’ve had Wet Nurses for thousands of years and because some group is bringing that concept back you’re labeling it “Black Market”? You should be ashamed of yourselves!

    Plus i know that lady and i know you told her that she could get the story out about Eats on Feets and probably didn’t even tell her you were going to turn it into a Black Market issue. That’s just not right!

    1. earthtraveler says:

      thank you monie127 for clearing up the spin on this article. Wow unbelievable taking a perfect and beautiful story and destroying the truth…

      1. monie127 says:

        it made me so mad…LOL i threw my pillow at the tv! it wasn’t fair to make it into something so horrible 😦 think of all the babies they are helping…

  5. Cara says:

    I know Mrs. Westenhaver personally also, and the title of this article definitely offended me to no end. As a mother who nursed, if I would’ve had more than enough milk, I would’ve donated too. Leslie is the type of woman that would give you the shirt off of her back if she had to. She’s a very down-to-earth young lady, and for your news station to have such a derogatory title for what she’s doing to bless another mother is absolutely WRONG! The story is supposed to be about one mother blessing another who cannot nurse her baby. Yet, you fools twisted it all around and made them out to be looking like they’re doing something shameful. I’m disgusted by you!

  6. Susie Kasper says:

    Wet nurses were from a different time period…I don’t know that using breast milk from a total stranger is a good thing. i believe that formula would be my choice before I would give my precious baby brest milk from a stranger.

    1. monie127 says:

      actually they are still using that concept in a lot of European Countries and in Africa in this present time period…the US decided not to do it anymore due to lack of not enough of them available at first and then people became so conservative that it “made them uncomfortable” and a “we just don’t talk about that” subject. I’m not saying Formula is 100% bad…but i think there are equal amount of risks for both of these..Formula is recalled a lot for bug parts, glass, and other harmful chemicals accidentally going into a batch….Breast Milk from another person can be bad but there are tests just like the other lady said that can be done to make sure it’s safe.

    2. Ilatrice says:

      Have you not read the above posts? Some women have medical issues that prevent them from breast feeding their babies! And some babies are allergic to formula! Don’t comment if you don’t understand each persons reason for using this method!

  7. Kammie says:

    There are over 3000 known ingredients in breastmilk with more being discovered still not to mention the antibody properties and the perfect balance of carbs, fats, sugars and proteins. Can you honestly say that about formula? Sooo many babies have allergies to formula and it is known to cause a higher risk of upper respiratory infections and ear infections. And if it were my baby I would rather have raw frozen breastmilk than pastuerized breastmilk. BTW- Donor here!! Donating to a wonderful friend and if you have a problem with it shove it!!

  8. Jessica says:

    I have supply issues because of a breast surgery and consider eats on frets a huge blessing. I wish that it had been around when my first child was a baby, then I might not have had to supplement and eventually switch to formula. I would rather give my baby breastmilk from another mother than formula any day.

    1. Candice says:

      Jessica, THANK YOU for sharing your story!!!

  9. CanadianTexan says:

    Seriously? “Black market” What a sick and paranoid society we have created for ourselves when giving the gifts of life and health are considered black market activty. Had I know such a thing was available I gladly would have donated when my babies were small. I threw away over 100 oz every couple weeks because my freezer was too full and I had too much. I called that milk bank but because i’m handicapped they wouldn’t consider it. My handicap is being born without a left hand due to pregnacy complications and amniotic bands. In every other way i’m perfectly healthy and normal. My hat is off to these fabulous mothers who give willingly to help others.

  10. Laura says:

    Black Market? Seriously? Breast milk is not being sold, it is given. I’m a proud donor. I was not able to produce enough milk for my first daughter, and had to switch to formula. This time I’m thankful to be an overproducer so that I can help other babies and moms who were like me, unable to produce enough for their child. I’m not just “some stranger” – I’m a mother feeding my baby the very same milk. I happily provide a copy of my bloodwork to recipient mothers to prove that I am healthy. Shame on CBS for airing this story in a negative and untruthful light.

  11. Frances says:

    Shame on you, CBS, for portraying Eats on Feets as being “black market”. It’s a wonderful organization that helps women all over.
    When my son was born and I was told I needed to supplement, I checked out the milk bank. According to their website, their milk is ONLY available via prescription. I wish I had known about Eats on Feets. I would not have had to use formula. I am so thankful that I don’t have to give my baby that any more since I fixed my supply issues.
    Yet another example of the main stream media bending over for a government agency.

  12. Jan says:

    The title of this is horrible! Sharing breastmilk has never been illegal and it’s not as if moms are selling it – they are giving away something that takes lots of their time and effort in order to help other moms who can’t feed their babies what is best for them!

    The donor moms I know are happy to provide testing results to show they are healthy and even flash pasteurized breastmilk is better for a baby then formula, if one wanted to be very safe. Formula is the 4th recommended feeding method for babies according to WHO, which means they recommend pumped milk and donor milk before formula.

    I wish I didn’t struggle with my supply and could donate to EOF! It’s nice to know moms who can would be willing to share if was unable to feed my baby naturally. I can’t say enough good things about the organization or its donors!

  13. Lisa O. says:

    I am so offended by this segment. Calling it “Black Market” implies that what these people are doing is wrong. Almost like they’re going in a back ally and paper bagging the milk to hide it!

    Sharing milk with another mother is not wrong at all! Shoot, if there were no pumps, I’m sure they would have wet nursed. Formula feeding is not the same as nursing, and if this is what they want to do for their babies, then it’s THEIR business.

    Black Market? REALLY?

  14. Jen says:

    It’s “unsafe” unless you go through a lab? Sounds like another way to make us spend money. I mean, breastfeeding isn’t worthwhile unless they find a way to make freakin money on it right? The nerve of this headline trying to cast a shadow on motherly goodwill that encourages breastfeeding instead of nutritionally substandard formula! THIS MAKES ME ILL.

    1. Ashli says:

      AMEN TO THAT SISTER!!!!!!!!

  15. Christina says:

    I produced a lot of extra milk, which I pumped and stored in the freezer, until my son refused to drink milk from a bottle. So rather than have it go to waste, I donated it to babies who needed it. My milk has nourished five children, including my son. It was given freely and willingly to those who needed it, and I made my (completely clean) bloodwork and health screening available to any recipient who requested it.
    I would donate milk again in a heartbeat, and I am offended at the implication in this article that milk sharing is somehow illicit or unhealthy.

  16. Leslie says:

    It warms my heart to see all the positive and encouraging stories and comments about milk sharing! While I’m not pleased at all with the title of the story, I am very happy that it has in fact brought more moms from North Texas to Eats On Feets! This network has been such a blessing to me in many ways. Not only am I able to give of what I have an abundance of, but I have made “real life” friends in the process. I am so blessed to be able to give my milk to other moms and babies and to meet some amazing women in the process!

  17. Tom says:

    Can’t you still go to the grocery store and buy prepared formula? Haven’t untold hundreds of thousands of people been raised, successfully I might add, on these prepared formulas? This sound a little crazy to me!

    1. Leslie says:

      Yes, they have. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you that formula is poison. But I will say that formula is certainly not nearly as good for a baby as breastmilk. Period. There is actually a hierarchy of infant feeding, which starts with feeding baby from the mom’s breast, then moms pumped milk from a bottle, then donor human milk, THEN formula. So, yes, people who were formula fed as infants are still successful. Yet the benefits of breastmilk are overwhelming if you actually take the time to go do your research.

  18. Coretta says:

    I guess it is okay just as long as you know where it is coming from.

  19. Kim Dar says:

    Tom, spoken like a true man. Why did youfeel it necessary to comment on a story, since you obviously cannot breast feed a child. We made a choice to breast feed because we feel it is beneficial to our children period. We all know there is formula out there, but it is a proven fact that breast milk is better for the child.

    1. Ilatrice says:

      Thank you Kim! Very well said! Men get on my nerves adding their not needed 2 pennies!

  20. niki says:

    I too think CBS did a shameful job of reporting on this issue, though I do love all the positive comments regarding the sharing of breast milk. I am one of those very blessed mothers who has benefitted from receiving milk from another mother. I adopted my baby and wanted to feed him with the best nutrition I could. I was so fortunate to find another mother who produced plenty of milk for her child and mine. Thank you so much to all you donor mothers for sharing!!!

  21. Jen S. says:

    I love all these comments! I have a hard time nursing my 6 month old then pumping any extra but when we start solids and my son nurses less, I hope to be able to pump enough to donate.
    If I’m not mistaken, I recall another CBS story on diapering that got the cloth diapering community all in an uprise like this. I believe CBS needs to learn how to get their facts straight before looking like a bunch of dummies… I could probably say that for most news organizations though too these days.

  22. Deidre Emerson says:

    Why is it a “Black Market”, like it’s some illegal organization out to hurt innocent people? It’s moms doing what they can for another baby that can’t get breastmilk. If a mom can’t produce, why shouldn’t she be able to get milk from another mother, who’s milk is tailored perfectly for an infant human, unlike anything else people could try and come up with artificially?

    I’m planning on donating to Eats on Feets because it’s ridiculous for another mother to have to pay that much money just to get breastmilk. What did moms do before the advent of formula? They turned to other mothers in the community to help them feed their baby. It’s not a new thing, it’s just not accepted any more in Western society because women and their bodies have been so degraded.

    Shame on CBS for even using the same language that people use when discussing illegal and dangerous drugs, and comparing it to the same sort of activity.

  23. Candice says:

    Honestly, what is “Black Market” is the milk bank charging what they do. My baby only needs an extra 8oz a day and if I got her supplements from the milk bank, it would be almost $700 A MONTH!!! If that isnt the definition of black market, I dont know what is.

  24. Ashli says:

    I think that CBS should give an on air appology to every mother who has every donater milk or even breast feed. It makes us sound like we are drug dealers. When words like “black market” are used to descibe breast milk it makes new moms feel bad about what they are doing .They are trying to make us feel ashamed for such a good thing. This is why we have such problem with breast feeding in public.
    I dont know about you but refuse to recive my news by such ignorant people.

  25. Lindsay says:

    I have never donated or received donated milk but my aunt told me that when she was nursing her 4th child she donated milk to babies in the neonatal center at a local hospital. It helps them so much during a time when breastmilk is exactly what they need to help them not only survive but thrive. My hat goes off to all the ladies who are helping others in need whithout asking for anything in return. You ALL have my support. Keep doing what your doing and dont let anyone try to make you think it is wrong. It is just people helping people and tiny innocent babies 🙂

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  27. tulia says:

    To the woman who wrote this article… did you breastfeed your children?? And since when is DONATING breastmilk a crime ?? And they even provide lab results… Do you work for the formula companies??? Have you ever looked into the benfits of breastfeeding??? I’m sorry, but next time you should provide the whole story not make up your own claims and definitions…. so sad.

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