Study Finds Tainted Breast Milk Purchased Online

By: David Norris Email
By: David Norris Email

BRYAN, Texas As the number of moms who choose to breast feed their babies grows, so does the demand for breast milk.

According to the U.S. Breastfeeding Report Card 2013, the number of moms who choose to breast feed has nearly quadrupled in the past four decades.

That demand has made breast milk a hot commodity on the internet.

Audrey Dwyer lives in Bryan with her husband. She said she knew she wanted to breast feed, but things didn't work out as planned.

"I thought it would come easy. I thought it would be natural, and it wasn't," said Dwyer.

Frustrated, but not willing to give up, Dwyer and her husband turned to the internet. They said they eventually found a donor, and after several phone calls, they decided to meet in person.

"We drove, met her, got the milk from her and we've been Facebook friends ever since. Lifelong friends. We meet regularly, and our kids play together," said Dwyer.

Dwyer said she was very happy with her experience, but experts say to be careful when you're buying online.

Researchers with Nationwide Children's Hospital anonymously purchased just over 100 breast milk samples on the internet, then tested them in the lab. They found three quarters of the milk studied was contaminated either with high levels of bacteria, or certain disease-causing bacteria like the kind found in human waste.

Shannon Sanford is a registered nurse and internationally board certified lactation specialist. She said buying milk online can be perfectly safe and cost effective, but you should always take the time to ask questions and get to know the donor.

"When you're dealing with a stranger, there's always risk," said Sanford. "How well do we know this person, how honest is this person being?"

Shannon recommends you start with people you know.

"Look closer to home first," said shannon. "A family member, someone in your church or playgroup, or a neighbor that you might feel more comfortable dealing with first."

If you have to go online and deal with a stranger, Shannon recommends you ask lots of questions.

"Is the donor taking any prescription medications?" Shannon said. If so, make sure the medications are safe for the baby.

Shannon also recommends asking about how the milk has been stored and how it will be shipped. She said even if the donor has taken large amounts of herbs or vitamins, you should be cautious.

"Sometimes, too much of these might be unhealthy," said Shannon.

Shannon said it's a buyer beware market, and before you go online, you should start by talking with your doctor or lactation specialist.

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