Breast milk that is either donated or sold online is often tainted with bacteria that could sicken a baby, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The growing industry of donated or commercially available breastmilk is unregulated, and so is difficult to track and maintain safety measures. More from The New York Times:
"The study makes you worry," said Dr. Richard A. Polin, the director of neonatology and perinatology at Columbia University, who was not involved in the research. "This is a potential cause of disease. Even with a relative, it's probably not a good idea to share."
After a spate of research showing that breast milk protects infants from infections and other ailments, health care providers in recent years have strongly encouraged new mothers to abandon formula and to breast-feed. But this can be a difficult challenge. Parents who have adopted, for instance, or have had mastectomies — or who simply do not produce enough milk — often rely on donated or purchased breast milk.
"Milk-sharing" Web sites host classified advertisements from women wishing to buy, sell or donate breast milk. "My daughter is two months old and has gained five pounds and grown three inches since birth!" reads one ad. "I have a serious oversupply and I am looking to free up room in my freezer."
Some sites discourage paying for breast milk, while others actively endorse the practice. Advertisements from some sellers play up the convenience and price, which can be as low as $1.50 an ounce. But many women wish to donate milk simply to help out fellow mothers in need.