Donor Breast Milk Risks

InfantGirl_mWho knew? Then again, who couldn’t have guessed?

Seems there is risk in the use of donor breast milk. Believe me, I understand wanting to use breast milk for your baby, but honestly, unless it is a medial necessity for a preemie, I can’t understand why you would introduce something from someone else’s body into your infant. So – count me among the skeptics-from-the-start.

The Wall Street Journal reported today, that a study in the journal Pediatrics found high levels of bacteria in the majority of breast milk samples obtained online. In fact, the study “found that 72% of breast-milk samples purchased over the Internet contained infection-causing bacteria and 21% had potentially harmful viruses.” Some of the bacteria in the 72% of contaminated samples? “E. coli, staphylococcus, and streptococcus.” ¬†

The study also showed that 74% of the samples had bacteria counts above generally accepted levels. “Sarah Keim, the study’s lead author, said the bacteria probably came from improper washing of hands, breast pumps or milk containers and then proliferated during storage and shipping.” In other words – not from anything to do with the milk itself.¬†Fortunately, none of the samples contained HIV, but 21 samples had a herpes-type virus. The samples were not tested for illegal substances or prescription drugs.

Part of the problem with bacteria-laden breast milk is that it is the more fragile babies who will suffer the greatest consequences. Since there is no way for the mom on either end to see the bacteria, and the study indicated that the method of shipment did not ensure that breast milk arrived bacteria-free, processing the breast milk is being offered as the safest way to go.

“Kim Updegrove, president of the Human Milk Bank Association of North America, which supplied the comparison samples, said she wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings. “Giving unscreened, unprocessed body fluid to another person will potentially harm them,” she said. The association’s 13 U.S. milk banks accept only donated milk that is then cultured for 48 hours and pasteurized before being distributed, mainly by prescription, to premature and otherwise fragile babies.”

According to the WSJ report, the study results are spurring OnlyTheBreast.com to stop their facilitation of mother-to-mother sales. Instead, they’ll help donors to sell to a breast-milk-processing company. It’s likely other facilitators will follow suit.

What do you think? How far would you go to use breast milk for your infant?


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