Breast milk sold on­line brings risks, study finds

Col­lected sam­ples were not 100% hu­man milk, sug­gest­ing baby for­mula was mixed in.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Deb­o­rah Netburn deb­o­rah.netburn @la­times.com Twit­ter: @Deb­o­rahNet­burn

Is breast milk al­ways best for ba­bies? Not when it’s pur­chased over the In­ter­net, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

Re­searchers who tested 102 sam­ples of breast milk pur­chased from popular milk-shar­ing web­sites found that 1 in 10 con­tained sub­stan­tial amounts of cow DNA.

Fur­ther tests ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity that the cow DNA was the re­sult of mi­nor or in­ci­den­tal con­tam­i­na­tion and sug­gested that the tainted breast milk had prob­a­bly been mixed with cow-milk-based baby for­mula.

“We con­firmed that all of the sam­ples did have hu­man DNA in them, but they were not 100% hu­man breast milk,” said Sarah Keim, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist at Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Colum­bus, Ohio. “One of our sam­ples was al­most half and half for­mula and milk.”

The re­search, led by Keim, was pub­lished on­line Sun­day in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics.

Ac­cord­ing to the au­thors, 21% of par­ents who seek breast milk over the In­ter­net are do­ing it for a child with a pre­ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tion. In ad­di­tion, 16% of those look­ing to pur­chase breast milk say their child has a for­mula in­tol­er­ance.

Keim and her team have been study­ing the trend of buy­ing, sell­ing and shar­ing hu­man milk on­line for four years.

Although both the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics have been clear that they do not think pur­chas­ing milk over the In­ter­net is a good idea, it is a trend that has con­tin­ued to grow.

In 2011, the re­searchers es­ti­mated that there were 13,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in th­ese trans­ac­tions. To­day, they say the num­ber has grown to 55,000.

“Peo­ple feel a lot of pres­sure to breast-feed and guilt and dis­ap­point­ment if they are not suc­cess­ful,” Keim said. “I think that is un­der­ly­ing a lot of the de­mand for milk on­line.”

In a pre­vi­ous study, the same re­search group found that three quar­ters of hu­man milk pur­chased over the In­ter­net was con­tam­i­nated with Gram-neg­a­tive bac­te­ria, which can cause se­ri­ous ill­ness in in­fants with com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems.

“Our se­ries of stud­ies clearly back up the warn­ings of the FDA and the AAP that ac­quir­ing milk for your baby in this way does pose mul­ti­ple risks to your baby in terms of health and safety,” Keim said.

“I feel for women who des­per­ately want to feed their ba­bies breast milk,” she added, “but they have no way to know it is safe.”

Erika Schultz Seat­tle Times

MANY PAR­ENTS seek breast milk on the In­ter­net for a child with a med­i­cal con­di­tion, re­searchers say.

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