A study led by Dr. Sarah A. Keim from the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and colleagues found that 75 percent of breast milk acquired over the internet is not safe for babies according to their report in the Oct. 21, 2013, issue of the journal Pediatrics.
This research is the first to examine the safety and practices used by nonprofit milk banks and individuals that sell breast milk on the internet.
The investigators compared 101 breast milk samples bought online with 20 samples obtained from a milk bank.
The majority of milk banks in the United States follow the Human Milk Banking Association of North America guidelines. The process includes screening of donors and pasteurization of breast milk samples.
Similar guidelines for breast milk collection and storage are provided by internet breast milk websites but the researchers found that the guidelines were not followed in the majority of cases.
High bacterial counts, fecal contamination, poor hand cleaning practices, insufficient cooling after collection and during storage, and too much time between collection and use were found to be the major problems with individually collected breast milk. Individual sellers do not list their practices in collecting, handling, storage, and shipping of breast milk routinely. Individuals do not have the equipment needed to test breast milk for pharmaceutical contamination.
The researchers conclude that “Based on our research, it is not safe to buy breast milk online, and the Food and Drug Administration recommends against sharing milk obtained in that way.”
Breast milk is needed for infants that have illnesses when their mothers cannot produce enough breast milk. The practice of buying breast milk on the internet has increased over the last five years.