Maybe human breast milk isn’t always as safe as it seems, at least on the open market.
Results of a recent study, to be published in the November issue of Pediatrics and announced October 21, found significant measurable levels of dangerous bacteria in 75 percent of the samples of human breast milk offered for sale in at least two online sites. Bacteria found in the samples included salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus.
Researchers attributed the germs to possible contamination and improper handling of during milk collection, storage, and shipping.
Human milk banks have grown popular across the United States, offering milk sold or donated by lactating women. Many such sources are wholly unregulated, and safety standards vary greatly.
Providers approved by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America are carefully screened and must follow strict guidelines for handling and submitting their own breast milk. Their milk bank supplies are also pasteurized and screened, which may not be the case with random unscreened breast milk offered by non-HMBANA sites.
What makes bacteria-laden breast milk extra scary?
Infants may be unable to nurse for many reasons. Mothers may not produce sufficient supplies for breastfeeding, requiring a substitute or supplementary source. Frequently, bottle-fed babies do well with commercially produced infant formulas, which may contain soy or cow milk.
However, some infants may be placed on human breast milk regimens for particular health reasons, such as allergies, formula intolerance, or failure to thrive.
Fragile and premature newborns might fit this bill as well. In such cases, bacterial exposure can be particularly perilous. Although an infection may be dangerous for any newborn, it may prove especially critical for an at-risk child.
Historically, traditional breastfeeding advocates have reminded mothers of the apparent immunity-boosting effects of human breast milk in infants. That may make the new findings all the more shocking.
How can a parent find safe human breast milk for purchase?
No HMBANA milk bank currently exists in Wisconsin or Illinois. Approved sites may be found in Indianapolis, Indiana; Coralville, Iowa; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and several other locations across the U.S.
Also, La Leche League International, with at least five local groups in and around the Madison area, offers assistance and support for mothers hoping to provide human breast milk safly for their babies.
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