Breastfeeding is a polarizing topic, especially with corporations pushing fake subsitutes and fewer than 4 percent of US hospitals providing adequate breastfeeding support to new mothers. But even those committed to breastfeeding can’t always do so themselves, so some parents have been turning to online, milk-sharing websites. A new study published in Pediatrics Magazine found that breast milk sold online is frequently contaminated. Apparently, getting breast milk from strangers can be scary for you and your baby.
How much breast milk is being purchased in the online sphere? It’s hard to know exactly, but Dr. Sarah Keim, lead investigator for the study, noted that in 2011 there were aboout 13,000 postings on the four main milk-sharing websites.
But why are women procuring breast milk online? Part of it has to do with the aversion to formula.The New York Times reports:
“After a spate of research showing that breast milk protects infants from infections and other ailments, health care providers in recent years have strongly encouraged new mothers to abandon formula and to breast-feed. But this can be a difficult challenge. Parents who have adopted, for instance, or have had mastectomies — or who simply do not produce enough milk — often rely on donated or purchased breast milk.”
Those mothers who are unable to produce their own milk but want to breastfeed their babies are at a loss for what to do, and if they turn to milk-sharing websites, are at risk, as Keim points out. “Buying milk via the Internet poses numerous risks, and one cannot tell for sure that the milk one receives is safe. Because the consequences can be serious, buying milk online is not a good idea.”
Interestingly, there are official milk banks that parents can turn to. The first ever milk bank opened in Vienna, Austria. Thirteen such facilities exist in the United States. Each requires donors to be screened and milk must be pasturized.
The bottom line? If you’re milk-sharing, get it from a screened source.
“If you get milk from an unscreened sharer, you put your child at risk. I hate to say this to an informal sharer, because they are trying to do good. But they are playing a game of Russian roulette,” Kim Updegrove, president of the Human Milk Banking Association, told the New York Times.
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