Should you buy breast milk online?

By Drum Digital
26 March 2015

However, more and more women who are unable to produce milk themselves are turning to online markets to purchase the white stuff from strangers, not realising that these means are almost entirely unregulated.

Breastfeeding has been praised by many for its apparent benefits to the child and the wellbeing of the mother.

A report published in the British Medical Journal argues that stricter regulations need to be put in place to protect babies, and that mums need to be made more aware of the risks.

'At present milk bought online is a far from ideal alternative, exposing infants and other consumers to microbiological and chemical agents.'

It also pushes for the milk to be tested for diseases including HIV, hepatitis B and C and human T-cell lymphotropic virus.

Previous research into the matter has led to these new demands. A 2013 study discovered that 21 per cent of milk bought online contained a type of herpes called cytomegalovirus, which can have detrimental effects on the immune system if digested.

Another experiment found that 92 out of 101 breast milk samples were contaminated by bacterial growth due to not being pasteurised properly, as well as not being shipped in good condition and arriving damaged or even frozen.

There's also the fact that it may not even be 100 per cent breast milk; ingredients such as cow's milk and even the soy option could be used to add volume to the breast milk, therefore diluting it.

“As our research has revealed, 75 per cent of mothers go online when they have an issue with infant feeding,” outlines the Global Health, Policy and Innovation Unit at Queen Mary University London. “They resort to the internet to find out the information, usually because they’re embarrassed, or because they feel like they’re failing their infant, or because they’re exhausted.

"At present milk bought online is a far from ideal alternative, exposing infants and other consumers to microbiological and chemical agents. Urgent action is required to make this market safer."

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