Yikes! the Risks of Purchasing Breast Milk Online

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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Updated
Mar 2017
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For moms who struggle with pumping their own milk, several milk sharing sites are available online. If you don’t want to supplement with formula, you can buy 100 percent human milk from other moms.

Supposedly.

A new study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, found that one out of 10  milk samples purchased online are “topped off” with cow’s milk or infant formula. And this is a huge problem for families purchasing this milk because their babies have a medical condition, allergies or formula intolerance.

The research team from Nationwide Children’s Hospital previously found that 21 percent of parents looking for human milk online have a child with a pre-existing medical condition, and 16 percent of these children have formula intolerance. Plus, babies shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk until age one. So these additives — likely introduced to the breast milk to boost volume for sales purposes — are especially unwelcome.

To conduct the study, researchers purchased 102 samples of breast milk online. While all of them did contain human milk, 11 also contained bovine DNA. This could be inadvertant, but 10 of the 11 had amounts which researchers associated with “more than minor, accidental contamination with cow’s milk.”

So if you shouldn’t buy breast milk but want baby to benefit from it, what’s the alternative?

“Quality, timely lactation support for moms who want to breastfeed their babies could help avoid the need for many mothers to seek milk online,” says lead study author Sarah Keim, PhD. “Women who have difficulty making enough milk for their child should work with their pediatrician to identify safe, healthy ways to feed their baby. The risk of contamination and added cow’s milk makes it unsafe to purchase breast milk over the Internet.”

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