Buying Breast Milk Online May Not Be The Most Stellar Idea

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
Twins drinking bottled milk in a double baby cart

Today, more news from the “no shit” file: Buying breast milk online from anonymous donors may not be such a great idea. Strange. What could possibly be unsafe about buying bodily fluids from an anonymous stranger on the internet?!

Let’s get the obvious reason out of the way: you have no idea who the hell this person is or if they are healthy and oh my god why would you even consider feeding your infant something that came out of an anonymous stranger’s body? Apart from that, a new study found that ten percent of breast milk that is bought over the internet is topped off with cow’s milk. Experts say that babies should not be fed cow’s milk before their first birthday because it “contains high concentrations of protein and minerals which can tax your baby’s immature kidneys,” doesn’t have the “right amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients for infants,” and may even cause iron-deficiency anemia in some babies. Yet one in ten online samples of breast milk have been willy-nilly topped off with something that infants shouldn’t even be ingesting. That’s troublesome.

After visiting a popular online breast milk exchange, it’s hard to see why any parent would feel comfortable purchasing milk this way. One of the sites advertises its services like this: “Buy, sell or donate breast milk with our discreet classifieds system in a clean, safe and private way.” Discreet? Yes. Private? Yes? Clean and safe? Well, that’s a little harder to prove.

The site makes a seller agree to certain terms of use before they can sell their milk on their server: the milk has to be pasteurized (the site provides at-home pasteurization tips) and the seller has to agree to “follow best practices using aseptic technique for expressing, handling, and storing human milk which also addresses shipping, freezing, and peer to peer screening.” These are all great recommendations, but they are not necessities for posting on the site. It is up to the individual buyer to do their due diligence by requesting screening forms and such from the seller. Browsing a few ads, there are plenty that advertise “safe, healthy” milk, but not all of them can back that up with screening documents. The Washington Post notes that a study from last year found three-fourths of the samples of online breast milk to be tainted with dangerous bacteria — including salmonella. The author of the study said, “It’s pretty clear, based on the findings of this and our prior study that looked at infectious disease risks, that obtaining milk for your babies that way is not a safe practice or recommended.”

It seems that some may be taking the “breast is best” mantra a little too far. It’s stressful for a mother who can not produce enough breast milk for her child, but if it is so important to you to give your child breast milk instead of choosing to feed her the (completely healthy) option of formula, you should be willing to go to a breast milk bank that screens the milk for disease and bacteria.

Let’s use a little common sense here.

Related post: 15 Things They Don’t Tell You About Breastfeeding

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