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Breast Milk from the Internet? It Might Be Unsafe

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Websites selling human milk for infant consumption are gaining in popularity. Is it 100% safe? A recent study says far from it.
Air Date: 11/13/13
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Sarah Keim, PhD
sarah keimSarah A. Keim, MA, MS, thD is a principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Ohio State University College of Medicine and of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health. Dr. Keim is a perinatal and pediatric epidemiologist whose research is focused on studying the role of early life nutritional factors (including breastfeeding) on the cognitive development and behavior of children from infancy through preschool. Most of this work involves children who were born preterm. She is also broadly interested in critically examining the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis as it pertains to child cognitive ability and behavior.
Breast Milk from the Internet? It Might Be Unsafe
Websites selling human milk for infant consumption are gaining in popularity.

In the study, "Microbial Contamination of Human Milk Purchased via the Internet," published in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 21), researchers purchased 102 cross-sectional samples of human milk through a popular U.S. milk-sharing website.

The milk samples were sent to a rented mail box in Ohio and later compared with samples of unpasteurized, donated milk obtained through a milk bank.

Seventy-four percent of the Internet milk samples were colonized with high bacterial counts overall, or had at least some Gram-negative bacteria; and 64 percent of the Internet samples tested positive for staphylococcous, compared to 25 percent of the milk bank samples.

Three of the Internet samples were contaminated with Salmonella.

The high overall bacterial growth and frequent contamination with disease-causing bacteria in the Internet milk reflected poor collection, storage or shipping practices, according to the study authors.

The study authors recommend lactation support for mothers who want to provide breast milk to their infants but who have difficulty making enough.

Women who have extra milk should consider donating to a milk bank.

One of the authors of the study, Sarah A. Keim, gives guidance for women considering buying breast milk on the Internet and offers information on alternatives if you can't breast feed.
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