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Finding Breast Milk on the Internet

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This CNN story is the latest in a burst of press about the growing movement to buy breast milk on the Internet. More and more, it seems mothers are using technology to find a modern day equivalent of a “wet nurse.”  There’s the Facebook group called Eats on Feets and there is also Only The Breast.com

But this option is not without controversy.  Tanya of the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog outlines some of the issues. And recently, The FDA  issued this statement:

Consider the possible safety risks

If you are considering feeding a baby with human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother, you should know that there are possible health and safety risks for the baby.  Risks for the baby include exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants, such as some illegal drugs, and to a limited number of prescription drugs that might be in the human milk, if the donor has not been adequately screened.  In addition, if human milk is not handled and stored properly, it could, like any type of milk, become contaminated and unsafe to drink.

FDA recommends against feeding your baby breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the Internet

When human milk is obtained directly from individuals or through the Internet, the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infectious disease or contamination risk.  In addition, it is not likely that the human milk has been collected, processed, tested or stored in a way that reduces possible safety risks to the baby.

FDA recommends that if, after consultation with a healthcare provider, you decide to feed a baby with human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother, you should only use milk from a source that has screened its milk donors and taken other precautions to ensure the safety of its milk.

There are human milk banks that take voluntary steps to screen milk donors, and safely collect, process, handle, test, and store the milk.  In a few states, there are required safety standards for such milk banks.  FDA has not been involved in establishing these voluntary guidelines or state standards.

You can contact your state’s department of health to find out if it has information on human milk banks in your area.  Another source of information is the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), a voluntary professional association for human milk banks (http://www.hmbana.org/. disclaimer icon).  HMBANA issues voluntary safety guidelines for member banks on screening donors, and collecting, processing, handling, testing and storing milk.