I don’t know why you’d buy breast milk on the Internet, but don’t do it

I kept meaning to get to this, but it’s been a busy week month year. “Cow’s Milk Contamination of Human Milk Purchased via the Internet“:

BACKGROUND: The US Food and Drug Administration recommends against feeding infants human milk from unscreened donors, but sharing milk via the Internet is growing in popularity. Recipient infants risk the possibility of consuming contaminated or adulterated milk. Our objective was to test milk advertised for sale online as human milk to verify its human origin and to rule out contamination with cow’s milk.

METHODS: We anonymously purchased 102 samples advertised as human milk online. DNA was extracted from 200 µL of each sample. The presence of human or bovine mitochondrial DNA was assessed with a species-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction assay targeting the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) dehydrogenase subunit 5 gene. Four laboratory-created mixtures representing various dilutions of human milk with fluid cow’s milk or reconstituted infant formula were compared with the Internet samples to semiquantitate the extent of contamination with cow’s milk.

Buying other people’s breast milk on the Internet seems totally crazy to me. But I admit that’s me. It’s not just squeamishness. Research shows that lots of breast milk bought online is totally contaminated with bacteria. That may be because the people shipping it aren’t really trained to keep food sterile or safe. It may also be because some of them aren’t totally trustworthy. Who knows?

This study purchased more than 100 samples of human breast milk online. Then they tested it to see if it was actually human breast milk. All of them contained human DNA, proving that they had some human breast milk in there. But about 10% of the samples had cow DNA in there, too, because some of the samples were being “cut” with cow’s milk. Those samples were composed of at least 10% cow’s milk.

One of the reasons people seek out human breast milk is because they think their baby is intolerant of cow’s milk formula. If that’s the case, getting cow’s milk by surprise is not so good. Additionally, infants less than one year shouldn’t be getting cow’s milk. It can lead to anemia, and it’s why we recommend formula or breast milk until 12 months of age. No baby should be being fed cow’s milk.

But if you’re buying breast milk off the Internet, they could be getting just that. How do you know?


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