shutterstock_148077899__1382387411_142.196.167.223It seems like a fix for women who can’t supply enough of their own breast milk – but buying breast milk online may actually be dangerous, according to a new study.

From USA Today:

Researchers’ analysis of 100 samples of breast milk bought on a public milk-sharing website found three in four samples contained either high levels of bacterial growth overall or contained disease-causing bacteria, including fecal contamination.

The findings were likely the result of poor hygiene during milk collection, the use of either unclean containers or unsanitary breast milk pump parts, or compromised shipping practices, says epidemiologist Sarah Keim, lead author of the study in November’s Pediatrics, published online today.

One hundred may not be a huge sample, but three in four? That is truly alarming.

I was always put off by the thought of a public milk sharing website. Receiving breast milk from a source that is totally unscreened seems really dangerous. I never even thought about the hygiene aspect, I was always more concerned with simply the concept of accepting bodily fluids from another human without having those fluids thoroughly screened – and then feeding them to your baby. Call me a sanctimommy, but that is crazy to me.

Nineteen percent of the shippers also did not include dry ice or some other kind of cooling method. Portions of milk were sent unrefrigerated. Who receives a package of unrefrigerated milk and feeds it to their child. Seriously, who are these people?

I know what some of you may be thinking, you shouldn’t judge these parents, they probably thought it was safe, it’s done all the time. 

72% had any detectable gram-negative bacteria, which are associated with bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, meningitis and fecal contamination vs. 35% of milk bank samples

– 63% tested positive for staphylococcus vs. 25% of milk bank samples

– 36% tested positive for streptococcus vs. 20% of milk bank samples

– 3% were contaminated with salmonella vs. none of the milk bank samples.

The bank samples in these results are from donated milk that has not been pasteurized yet. It’s clear that for some reason the milk being donated to breast milk banks is less contaminated than those sold online.

“This study confirms what people have suspected in terms of online milk purchases,” says Anne Eglash, a family medicine physician with University of Wisconsin Health in Mt. Horeb and a co-founder of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. She was not involved in the new study.

“You don’t know what you’re getting, you don’t know the quality, how honest people are about how old the milk is, and so many other issues. It’s important to realize that this may not be the safest way to get breast milk when you don’t have enough,” she says.

The study isn’t proving that you should never use donated milk. It’s proving that you should never use donated milk, that hasn’t been screened, from a source that you don’t know.

Shouldn’t that be common sense? Apparently, it’s not.

(photo: Dmitry Lobanov/ Shutterstock)