Study: Most Breast Milk Sold Online Contaminated

Most milk researchers bought online contained bacteria
baby bottles with formula and fruit

If you’re tempted to buy breast milk for your baby over the Internet, beware: There’s a good chance it’s not safe to drink. A study shows most of the milk sold online may be contaminated and could make your baby sick.

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A new study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which appears in the November issue of Pediatrics, found breast milk bought online may contain high levels of bacteria, including, in a few cases, salmonella.

More than 75 percent of the samples bought online by the researchers contained illness-causing bacteria.

Kinds of bacteria especially concerning

Pediatrician Michelle Medina, MD, did not take part in the study, but says the findings are troubling.

“The kinds of bacteria were concerning,” Dr. Medina says. “The researchers were seeing coliform and staphylococcal bacteria. Coliform bacteria is really concerning because it represents fecal contamination.”

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What the study found

Researchers bought more than 100 samples of breast milk through a popular U.S. milk-sharing website and compared them to samples of unpasteurized, donated milk obtained through a milk bank.

Seventy-four percent of the Internet milk samples were colonized with high bacteria counts overall compared to 25 percent of the milk bank samples.

Researchers say the results reflect poor collection, storage or shipping practices, and infants who drink this milk are at risk for illness.

“If you’re thinking about accessing these sites and procuring milk, you really have to think, ‘How safe is this product that I’m going to feed my baby?’” says Dr. Medina.

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Lactation specialists, milk banks safer options

Another option is consulting a milk bank. These banks screen donors and provide pasteurized milk, but a doctor’s prescription is necessary and supplies are usually low. And the milk can be expensive — up to $6 per ounce, with the average needs of a 1-month-old about 25 ounces a day.

Dr. Medina suggests consulting a lactation expert and conferring with others also trying to make enough milk for their own babies.

“Talk to your doctor, think about a lactation specialist,” says Dr. Medina. “And think about joining a breastfeeding group. Talk with somebody who is having the same struggles.”

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