Buying breast milk online is risky business


File this one under "things no one should have to tell you": Buying breast milk online is a bad idea. As you await your baby's arrival, you may be making plans for nourishing your little one through exclusive breastfeeding. But the best intentions – and the best breast pump – don't always make for a freezer stuffed with excess bottles. Low supply can affect any new mom, and once baby arrives, you may find yourself looking for ways to supplement your child's feedings. If that time comes, remember this: Buying milk from a stranger online is risky business.

Every year, thousands of women buy and sell breast milk from others through the Web. This new booming business is not regulated and can pose some pretty serious health risks for your little one. Not to be confused with hospital milk banks that screen donations for illness and contaminants, online sales have no safety measures in place.

Recently, scientists at Nationwide Children's Hospital studied 102 random samples of breast milk purchased from popular breast milk sales sites. The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, found a disturbing trend – 10 percent of the samples were topped off with cow's milk. 

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What's the fuss?

When baby arrives, you'll learn that cow's milk is a big no-no for any child under 1. Babies may have allergies to dairy – and cow's milk doesn't contain the nutrients needed for proper growth and development. What's even scarier is that 75 percent of the breast milk samples in this study contained harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

It gets riskier

When milk-sharing became all the rage in 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to new moms everywhere. When buying a stranger's milk online, you can't be sure of the following:

  • That proper sanitization practices were in place
  • That the milk was stored safely at the right temperature
  • The the mother doesn't have an infectious disease such as HIV or hepatitis, which can be passed to a baby through breast milk
  • That the mother doesn't smoke or drink alcohol, which can pass harmful contaminants to baby

The bottom line

When it comes to nurturing our babies, breast may be best. But when it's a choice between someone else's breast and formula? You're better off going with the latter to keep your little one safe.

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