They say that breast is best and in the vast majority of cases, this is true. Breast milk cannot be replicated and even the best of formulas cannot compete in terms of being the gold standard for a baby's nutrition. Breast milk needs no supplements other than perhaps the Vitamin D that baby cannot get from sun exposure.
EmpowHER article Infant Feeding: Breast or Bottle? reported that in addition to excellent nutrition, nursing can lead to:
"Fewer illnesses—Compared with bottlefed infants, breastfed infants are less likely to develop:
- Ear infections
- Infections of the lower respiratory tract
- Bacterial infections in the blood or brain
Breast milk also offers:
"Possible protection against certain conditions—Breastfed infants may have protection against sudden infant death syndrome, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and leukemia."
There are many great reasons to nurse. It can lower the risk of certain cancers in women and in some cases, can allow an easier transition to a healthier weight after birth, among other benefits.
However, it's not an option that works for all. Some women with tuberous breasts cannot adequately feed their babies, nor can moms dealing with HIV, other conditions, or surgeries that make nursing either impossible or dangerous.
Some adoptive parents welcome the opportunity to offer breast milk to their babies, as well as families with two dads. And breastfeeding simply doesn't work for some families or the mother simply chooses not to.
In a country where many women have to return to work within weeks of giving birth or face losing their jobs, our society in America doesn't always make breastfeeding easy.
But for mothers who cannot breastfeed or have multiples, buying breast milk has become quite the norm. There are numerous sites on line where women have excess amounts of breast milk that they sell to women who don't want to feed their children formula. Many women donate their breast milk and make no profit from it.
Some sites have milk that is regulated. It is checked for bacteria and viruses and pasteurized before being sent to new mothers. But many don't. A woman buys it directly from the seller and trusts that the milk is good.
But the milk is not always good. In fact, a new study profiled in the New York Times has shown that some unregulated breast milk for sale has been found to contain dangerous amounts of salmonella or other bacteria that could harm their babies.
These unregulated breast milk sites are often called "milk sharing sites" whereas regulated ones are usually known as milk banks. Because milk banks are very expensive, running about $6 per ounce, women often turn to milk sharing sites where the cost can be as low as $1.50 per ounce.
Dr. Sarah Keim, an associate pediatric professor at Ohio State University and researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus took over 100 samples from unregulated milk sharing sites and analyzed the breast milk.
What she found was quite startling:
- 64 percent of the samples were contaminated with staph
- 36 percent were contaminated with strep
- About 75 percent showed other bacteria.
- Three of the samples contained salmonella
- Only 26 percent of the samples would have passed the standards required by regulated milk banks.
The milk banks were not pure themselves, though. One-quarter of the samples had staph and one-fifth had strep. Over one-third had other bacteria.
Dr. Keim is quick to note that much of this bacteria is harmless to humans in smaller doses but the large doses can do harm. Salmonella should never be in breast milk.
Breast milk via donation or sale can be a real gift to new families. But parents who buy from unregulated sources need to be aware of the dangers, including the temperature of the milk when it arrives. Like other milk, it should be refrigerated and packaged tightly.
EmpowHER.com. Relationships & Family. Parenting. Infant Feeding: Breast or Bottle? EmpowHER. com.
The New York Times.com. Health. Web. Retrieved October 22, 2013. Breast Milk Donated or Sold Online Is Often Tainted, Study Says.
Reviewed October 23, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith