Breast not best when bought online
Breastfeeding has been praised by many for its apparent benefits to the child and the wellbeing of the mother.
However, more and more women who are unable to produce milk themselves are turning to online markets to purchase the white stuff from strangers, not realising that these means are almost entirely unregulated.
A report published in the British Medical Journal argues that stricter regulations need to be put in place to protect babies, and that mums need to be made more aware of the risks.
It also pushes for the milk to be tested for diseases including HIV, hepatitis B and C and human T-cell lymphotropic virus.
Previous research into the matter has led to these new demands. A 2013 study discovered that 21 per cent of milk bought online contained a type of herpes called cytomegalovirus, which can have detrimental effects on the immune system if digested.
Another experiment found that 92 out of 101 breast milk samples were contaminated by bacterial growth due to not being pasteurised properly, as well as not being shipped in good condition and arriving damaged or even frozen.
There's also the fact that it may not even be 100 per cent breast milk; ingredients such as cow's milk and even the soy option could be used to add volume to the breast milk, therefore diluting it.
“As our research has revealed, 75 per cent of mothers go online when they have an issue with infant feeding,” outlines the Global Health, Policy and Innovation Unit at Queen Mary University London. “They resort to the internet to find out the information, usually because they’re embarrassed, or because they feel like they’re failing their infant, or because they’re exhausted.
"At present milk bought online is a far from ideal alternative, exposing infants and other consumers to microbiological and chemical agents. Urgent action is required to make this market safer."
Editorial co-author Sarah Steele also calls for healthcare experts to be better trained to test the breast milk, stating that they aren't aware of how dangerous it can be. It's a big industry, with Sarah finding milk-selling website OnlyTheBreast.com had 27,000 members last year and around 700-800 join each month.
If in doubt, formula milk is just as good for your baby as breast milk and you don't have to worry about what's lurking in it. Ordering breast milk online can be unsafe so stick to something more reliable until you can be fully sure of what to expect.