The right formula ... James and Leon on the road to recovery. Photo: Kate Geraghty
A mother's milk is supposed to give her child the best start in life. So Alicia* was horrified when she discovered her milk was slowly poisoning her baby boys.
Alicia first noticed problems when James developed reflux, but his symptoms settled down when he was put on formula.
"Leon was fine but all of a sudden he started acting unusually as well. He just looked a bit uncomfortable and distracted after he ate," she said.
At first friends and family told her not to worry, but eventually tests showed Leon had a level of lead in his blood of nearly 12 micrograms per decilitre.
Current national guidelines say people should have no more than 10 micrograms, although serious health impacts have been linked to half that level.
Alicia had been storing her expressed milk in an old crystal glass decanter - the type of family heirloom found in many Australian households.
But the brilliant old-fashioned crystalware, created by combining molten quartz with lead compounds, was slowly leaching lead into her milk.
"I didn't sleep for about a month wondering about what could have happened," she said. "We thought it was a beverage storer so it would be the best thing to store it in, and it turned out it was the worst possible thing.''
Alicia had not received any advice about lead during or after her pregnancy, but she said she was embarrassed that it had not occurred to her that the crystal glassware could contain it.
As soon as she stopped using the decanter Leon began excreting the lead from his system, and three months later his levels are almost non-existent and his symptoms are gone.
"It's still in the back of my mind all the time,'' Alicia said.
''If he was to be exposed again or for a long period of time, who knows what would have happened.''