The Hidden Dangers of Buying Breast Milk Online

When you (or 75 percent of other new moms) ask Google what to do about your breast feeding problems, it's eventually going to try to tell you to buy breast milk online. It's cheap, it's easy, and it seems like a good solution ... but there are some medical professionals who are saying it could actually be really dangerous.

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Online breast milk sales aren't exactly the most discussed or researched transactions, but the few studies that have been done found that the unregulated breast milk sold in online forums carries some startling issues every mom (at least every mom on the hunt for online breast milk) should know about.

It's an admittedly small sample, but one study found that of 101 breast milk samples bought online, 92 of them were contaminated by bacteria. That's in part because the milk wasn't pasteurized, but it's also because the samples were stored and shipped so poorly that they arrived unfrozen or severely damaged one quarter of the time.

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Even more concerning is that 21 percent of the breast milk samples tested positive for a strain of herpes called cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can be fatal to infants. And though it hasn't been tested for, researchers are worried that the samples could also easily be infected by hepatitis B and C, HIV, and syphilis.

Breast milk from banks gets pasteurized and goes through screenings for all that kind of stuff, making it the safer option. Of course, t's also substantially more expensive -- which is why plenty of parents turn to online sources. On average, banks charge about $4 an ounce, and at trading websites like OnlyTheBreast.com, the prices are often half that for the same amount of milk.

Unsurprisingly, the breast milk trade is also a prime target for fraud -- it's not uncommon to find milk online that's diluted with cow's milk, soy milk, or even water. Many people at these sites are there for the money (as opposed to the sheer pleasure of selling their breast milk to strangers), and they do what they can to expand the amount that they can sell.

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The authors of the editorial in The British Medical Journal said that they're concerned that the breast milk industry isn't getting enough attention from healthcare providers ... and they actually came out against buying breast milk online.

These sites have a huge following (OnlyTheBreast.com has 27,000 members and gets hundreds more every month), and the more they're discussed by doctors, the sooner they'll be regulated enough to make them safer for moms to use.

Of course, all this doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy breast milk online or that the services are inherently bad. It's just important to understand that there might be risks associated with giving your baby milk from an unknown donor and to be aware when you're looking to purchase milk.

Does this surprise you? Have you ever considered buying breast milk online?

 

Image © iStock.com/Cenere

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