Buying Breast Milk Online? Be Careful

Breast milk purchased online may contain cow's milk or formula

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Buying breast milk online is often cheaper than buying it from a milk bank, and it can be convenient for mothers who are unable to breastfeed their babies. Parents who purchase breast milk online, however, should make sure they're getting what they're paying for.

A new study found that much human breast milk sold online was contaminated with cow’s milk or milk-based formula powder.

The authors of this study said online shoppers should remain cautious — especially those with infants who have an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk.

Sarah A. Keim, PhD, of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, led this study.

“Because buyers have little means to verify the composition of the milk they receive, all should be aware of the possibility that it may be adulterated,” Dr. Keim and team wrote. “Pediatricians who care for infants should be aware that milk advertised as human is available via the Internet, and some of it may not be 100% human milk.”

Infants with a milk allergy or intolerance who drink contaminated human milk could be at risk of health problems. Those infants may experience an allergic reaction due the immune system trying to fight off the milk protein. Or they simply may not be able to digest the lactose (milk protein). This can cause infants to be irritable and fussy as they experience an upset stomach and discomfort from indigestion.

Dr. Keim and team tested 102 milk samples sold over the Internet and found that 11 percent were contaminated with cow’s milk. Ten of these samples had at least 10 percent cow’s milk or cow’s milk–based infant formula mixed in. These researchers noted that this was not a minor contamination.

This study was published online April 6 in the journal Pediatrics.

The Ohio State University Food Innovation Center, the Cigna Foundation, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital funded this research. Dr. Keim and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 3, 2015
Last Updated:
April 8, 2015