Buying human milk via the internet: just a click away

Breastfeed Med. 2013 Dec;8(6):474-8. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2013.0048. Epub 2013 Aug 24.

Abstract

Background: For past centuries, infants have been fed the milk of mothers who are not their own by latching to another woman's breast. Today, the majority of lactating women use electric pumps to extract milk from their breasts; thus, an infant now may be fed another woman's milk via a bottle or cup. The Internet is an emerging avenue to acquire pumped human milk. The purpose of our study was to participate in and describe the process of buying milk via the Internet. Our goal is to help those involved with the clinical care, research, and public health policy of mothers and infants better understand that families may be buying milk in this way.

Subjects and methods: We anonymously bought 102 human milk samples via the Internet. We characterized the outside box, packing materials, milk container, temperature and condition of the milk, and cost.

Results: We bought 2,131 ounces of milk at a total cost of $8,306. Eighty-nine percent of the milk arrived above the recommended frozen temperature of -20°C; 45% of it was even above the recommended refrigerator temperature (4°C). The mean surface temperature of the milk samples in each shipment was correlated with the cost of shipping, time in transit, and condition of the milk containers.

Conclusions: The prevalence and potential risks of this practice currently are unknown. Research related to milk quality and infant outcomes related to milk buying via the Internet is urgently needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Donor Selection / methods
  • Donor Selection / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Milk Banks / economics
  • Milk Banks / organization & administration
  • Milk Banks / standards*
  • Milk, Human*
  • Mothers*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Health* / economics
  • Public Policy
  • Quality Control*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Specimen Handling / economics
  • Specimen Handling / standards*
  • Temperature
  • United States