In the United States, milk-sharing has become a popular trend. Some companies are even making this service available online, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is warning mothers to investigate before they buy due to the dangers of harmful bacteria, salmonella and even e-coli.
In a new study conducted by the National Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, researchers purchased more than 100 samples of human milk from a popular online milk exchange site, as well as local milk bank that screen and pasteurize all its donations. Online samples were sent to a P.O. Box in Ohio and the two types were tested and compared. The results were staggering. Three out of four online samples were contaminated with disease-causing bacteria including, staphylococcus and streptococcus. Fecal contamination was also present.
Complete results appear in November’s issue of Pediatrics. According to epidemiologist, Sarah Keim, who headed the study, unsafe collection and shipping practices are listed as probable contributing factors. “The findings were likely the use of either unclean containers , unsanitary breast milk pump parts, or compromised shipping practices,” she explained. “Nineteen percent of sellers did not include dry ice or another cooling method when shipping.”
New mothers are encouraged to nurse their infants exclusively for the first six months of life. There is no denying breast milk offers babies a host of nutritional advantages and provides good bacteria they need to strengthen their immune systems, but for various reasons, not all mothers are able to provide this valuable sustenance. Local dedicated breast milk banks are the safest place to obtain mother’s milk but their quantity is usually limited and as many contract with hospitals to provide nutrition for premature or immuno-compromised babies. The cost can also e quite be expensive, often as much as $6.00 an ounce. To put that in perspective, an infant typically consumes 25 ounces a day.
In theory, online share sites are a good concept because they match up moms who need breast milk with those who produce an excess. Some milk is free or may cost as little as $1.00 an ounce. But many doctors and experts are still wary about endorsing anonymous milk-sharing, both online and local, due to the numerous ways the safety of the milk can be compromised. For years, scientists have warned about the possible dangers of purchasing such an easily contaminated product. Now, researchers have data to back up these claims.
The study has created an uproar in the milk-sharing community with many sites crying foul and insisting that the practice of milk-exchange is safe and beneficial. Still, the Food and Drug Administration remains steadfast – “ FDA recommends against feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet.” Keim agrees with that assertion concluding, “Infants consuming this milk are at risk for negative outcomes, particularly if born preterm or are medically compromised. Increased use of lactation support services may begin to address the milk supply gap for women who want to feed their child human milk but cannot meet his or her needs.