Doctors are sending a warning to new mothers who feed their babies with breast milk purchased online.
There are thousands of sellers and interested buyers on breast milk websites but a new pediatric study found high levels of bacteria and contamination in three out of four samples received from private sellers. Crouse Hospital in Syracuse is home to just one of eleven licensed milk banks in the United States. Staff screen breast milk donors using the same standards for blood donation and keep breast milk frozen to maintain safety.
"We do several blood tests on the mother for say, Hepatitis C, HIV - even though they've been tested pre-natal, we do it again," said Crouse Hospital nurse practitioner Karen Juszek.
Crouse's milk bank freezes breast milk as soon as possible after it is donated. In the study, 19% of private breast milk samples were shipped without any form of refrigeration.
"Once that's thawed, it's only good for 48 once thawed under refrigeration. So I can't imagine it being shipped without refrigeration. It has to be full of bacteria," said Juszek.
Syracuse mother Amy Lafebvre had heard of people buying and selling breast milk but says she can not believe any mother would put their children at risk by using breast milk from a complete stranger.
The research also cites several cases in which babies did get sick from a stranger's breast milk.(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)
"You don't know what she's been eating, there's drugs out there - you don't know if the mother has been doing drugs or what she's been doing. Because what you eat or whatever goes into your body goes into breast milk," said Lefebvre.