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Mothers struggling to find baby formula turn to donated breast milk, but experts say be cautious

The biggest concern experts have is diseases.

HOUSTON — With the formula shortage, mothers who are breastfeeding are willing to donate their milk to those in need. But experts have a warning for those thinking about taking this step.

Cecilia Banda is a local mom who has been traveling to stores to look for formula for her son.

"It's been very difficult," she said. "I have to drive hours away to find this specific formula."

And breastfeeding mothers like Claudia Rascon have noticed. This is why she and a couple of other mothers are willing to donate their milk to others who can't find food for their infants. 

"Well it's important to me because some babies they can't feed on anything else," Rascon said. "They have no choice."

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But experts want parents to know about some of the risks of getting donated breast milk.

"There are viruses, bacteria and contaminants that are transferred through breast milk and people need to know the risk to make an informed choice to feed their baby," said Kristina Tucker, manager of the lactation and milk department at Texas Children's Hospital.

The biggest concern experts have is diseases.

"Certain diseases can be transmitted through breast milk such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, along with bacterial contamination as well," said Tucker.

But Rascon, who is a mother of four, says she has donated milk before.

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She says she is healthy and is willing to help mothers in her area who need it.

"If there is a mom that can't find anything they are welcome to bring them to me and I can nurse them," she said.

And those mothers who are on their last can of formula are just grateful to get any kind of help.

"People are saying you have to be cautious of it. I am just hoping the moms that are donating this wouldn’t put babies at harm," said Banda.

There is a nonprofit milk bank where mothers can donate their milk. The organization tests and pasteurize the milk before selling the milk back to needing mothers. 

Experts say they recommend mothers go through a milk bank to donate or purchase.

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