Breast Milk for Sale?

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Get the full story before you decide whether or not to supplement your infant’s diet with purchased breast milk.

It’s no surprise that demand for breast milk is on the rise—studies continue to show that breast milk is a wholesome, natural option for feeding infants that imparts several health benefits.

For women who have difficulty producing enough breast milk for their children or who for whatever reason cannot breastfeed, the desire to provide the best possible source of nutrition to their children may be at odds with their physical abilities.

The desire to feed infants breast milk—despite not being able to produce it—has led to the rise of milk banks, online stores and community groups dedicated to helping connect women with excess breast milk to women in need of it. But what sounds like a match made in heaven may have a dark side.

Buyer Beware

Do the risks outweigh the benefits of feeding your child purchased breast milk? It depends on where the milk is coming from. While some sources of breast milk—known as milk banks—follow careful processes for screening donors and processing donations, other sources are not so stringent.

Families who purchase breast milk online directly from individual donors run the risk of exposing infants to contaminants and may not be getting what they pay for. One study published in the journal Pediatrics found that 10 percent of samples of breast milk purchased from online sharing sites contained cow’s milk. Other research discovered bacteria and viruses in breast milk purchased from unregulated sources.

Where to Turn

Organizations such as the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration do not recommend purchasing unprocessed breast milk. To find a reputable source of breast milk, look for milk banks affiliated with hospitals or the quality control organization the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).

This group works to regulate and encourage quality control in the breast milk industry by making sure safe breast milk gets to babies who are in need of supplemental breast milk.

Breast Still Best

Breast milk has consistently been proven to provide health benefits both to children and mothers. For infants, breastfeeding:

  • Boosts long-term dental health
  • Decreases chance of developing juvenile diabetes
  • Improves immune function
  • Increases digestive health
  • Lowers chances of sudden infant death syndrome
  • Prevents some allergies
  • Reduces odds of developing obesity
  • For moms, breastfeeding:
  • Boosts childbirth recovery
  • Encourages bonding
  • Improves immune function
  • Improves mental health
  • Saves money

Did You Know?

> According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 77 percent of babies start out being breastfed.

> On average, babies need between 25 and 35 ounces of breast milk per day for the first six months of life.

> Just 27 percent of babies are breastfed at 12 months of age.

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