Got milk? Breast milk purchased online may be contaminated with cow’s milk

The benefits of feeding breast milk to babies are well-established. Because breast milk is so beneficial to babies, it’s sometimes called “liquid gold,” and some moms are cashing in by selling their extra breast milk online. But according to research published this week in Pediatrics, breast milk purchased online from unscreened donors may in fact be little more than fool’s gold.

Scientists anonymously purchased over 100 samples of human breast milk from unscreened donors on milk-sharing websites. Then they tested the contents of the breast milk they purchased. The result: about 10 percent of samples contained more than human breast milk—they had been diluted with ordinary cow’s milk.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends against feeding babies breast milk that was purchased directly from individuals on the Internet. Instead, mothers are urged to talk to their child’s healthcare provider and, if necessary, arrange for human milk samples from a regulated milk bank which takes precautions to screen donors and ensure the safety of the milk.

Experts insist that “breast is best” for babies and moms, but new moms often face challenges with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding classes, taken during pregnancy, are intended to help prepare new parents for the experiences of breastfeeding and help set them up for success.

In a 2014 NPCH Report, we asked young parents in the National Poll on Children’s Health about their experiences with breastfeeding classes. Overall, 40% of first-time parents attended breastfeeding classes. But uninsured parents were less likely to have attended breastfeeding classes than parents with public or private insurance. Only 12% of parents without insurance attended breastfeeding classes, compared with 28% of parents on private insurance and 29% of parents on public insurance. Read the full report: “Breast is best” but uninsured parents take breastfeeding classes less often.

Figure 1: Participation in Breastfeeding Classes, by Parents' Insurance Status
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What do you think?
Did you take a breastfeeding class before having a baby? Did it help with your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter @MottNPCH.