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.