Breastfeeding: Got Milk?


Garrick Slate, MD
Breastfeeding: Got Milk?
Healthy Living - May 20, 2015

Beware online breast milk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has reaffirmed its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

Hospital routines to encourage and support the initiation and sustaining of exclusive breastfeeding should be based on the American Academy of Pediatric-endorsed WHO/UNICEF “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding”.

The demand for breastmilk has exploded in recent years not only for parents/mothers who cannot produce enough milk due to medical or surgical reasons but also for boutique markets including ice cream shops and fitness fanatics who believe that breast milk may build muscle mass, increase stamina, and boost an ailing immune system.

With the documented short-term and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding online sellers are appearing on the internet to meet mother’s demands.

Breastmilk has been documented to help fight infections due to its immune-protecting properties, protect against allergies, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Exclusive breastfeeding has also been linked to a higher IQ score and higher median income in the breastfed infant.

As such, the common online marketplaces have tried to establish policies.

Currently EBAY and Craigslist ban the sale of “body fluids”in their terms of use. However there are several other sites that have recommended home-based online business direct from seller-to-buyer. Some sites have estimated a home income in excess of $20,000/year for the sale of their breast milk.

The risks of purchasing and feeding breastmilk to your child from an unknown seller greatly outweigh the benefits.

There are multiple risks including:
  • Exposure to infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV (2009 Stanford University showed that 36 of 1091 women screened to donate had one of these diseases)
  • Exposure to medications (illicit and prescription) and exposure to contaminated milk.
  • 74 percent of all breast milk purchased online was contaminated with staph, strep, or other bacterial species.
  • Lastly almost 10 percent of samples were adulterated / mixed with cow’s milk or formula powder. This amount of cow’s milk shows that sellers purposely mixed the breast milk to meet demand. If an infant had a lactose or other milk component allergy the results of ingesting the cow’s milk could potentially harm the infant.
Milk-sharing communities and milk-banks do exist and the mother who is consider these options should discuss them with her pediatrician or obstetrician before purchasing any milk.