I first learned of this study by reading mainstream news article that a facebook friend has posted entitled "Much breastmilk bought online is contaminated, analysis shows". My immediate reaction was, "BOUGHT ONLINE?! WTF?!" I mean, seriously, who BUYS breastmilk online? Reputable milk sharing organizations such as Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies do not support or approve of the selling of breastmilk because of the ethical and safety issues involved. While a mom may be reimbursed for shipping, she shouldn't be selling milk. If there's money to be made, there's temptation to water down milk or whatever. I figured this was just shoddy reporting or the reporter had made a mistake, so I clicked over to the actual study. Yep, they bought breastmilk for this study.
Cross-sectional sample of human milk purchased via a popular US milk-sharing Web site (2012). Individuals advertising milk were contacted to arrange purchase, and milk was shipped to a rented mailbox in Ohio. The Internet milk samples (n = 101) were compared with unpasteurized samples of milk donated to a milk bank.I was not able to read the entire study since I didn't feel like paying for it, but the results were that 74 percent was found to have "high overall bacterial growth... reflecting poor collection, storage, or shipping practices".
My thoughts...in no particular order:
(1) While some things like shipping practices are unique to milk sharing, these are the exact same risks of pumping and storing our own milk, and Pediatrics isn't telling us to stop doing that. Why? Because unless a mom is able and willing to stay home for a year or so, having a freezer stash is NECESSARY for successful breastfeeding, which AAP and every other health organization recommend. Moms aren't doing this for shits and giggles. So, how bout some more education of the safe handling for milk collection and storage, which ABM has already published, rather than throwing the proverbial baby out with the breastmilk?!
(2) Yes breastmilk contains disease-causing bacteria...because that's how breastfeeding works! It's the same bacteria we come in contact with every single day and it helps to colonize the infant's gut. Breastmilk is not sterile, nor should it be. Guess what folks? Formula ain't sterile either. It has been known to contain *gasp* disease-causing bacteria! The difference being that the baby receiving formula isn't getting the antibodies from breastmilk. How many people actually prepare formula using WHO guidelines or even the directions on the formula can? I didn't and I have never known anyone else to either. And don't forget formula recalls for things like bugs and glass. (Note: I was a formula feeding mom, and I totally support moms who use formula. Lets not get off track here.)
(3) The whole damned study is flawed! Apparently, they used a website called Only the Breast, which, unlike the REPUTABLE sites the moms I know use, actually does allow members to buy and sell breastmilk. According to The Verge:
They anonymously ordered milk from a sampling of women across the country (relying primarily on Only The Breast and Milk Share) and paid for the product — at an average of $1.47 an ounce — via PayPal. "We kept the process as anonymous and transactional as possible," Keim says, "because we wanted to get samples indicative of what the average woman would be receiving."...Of 495 requests for breast milk sent out, 191 women never replied. An additional 41 stopped responding after one message and 57 were eliminated because "they wanted to communicate verbally or inquired about an infant."Why in the name of all that is holy would anyone think this is an accurate representation of milk sharing?! As Emma Kwasnica, activist and founder of HM4HB, states "Women aren't stupid. They get a vague, anonymous note asking to buy some milk? They know something weird is going on." So who did respond? Maybe they didn't even expect the milk to go to a baby. Only the Breast actually has a section for men buying breastmilk.
As Shell Walker, midwife and founder of Eats of Feets, states:
The methodology, analysis, context, and ethics of this study are questionable. The study attempts to implicate all non-milk bank use of donor milk. In fact, it only addresses the use of donor milk obtained in a deceitful and unethical manner on behalf of the recipient (the researchers), and shoddy methods (the donors). These practices do not apply to the breastmilk sharing community.So folks, I am pissed! Why? Pediatrics is supposed to be a legitimate medical journal with scholarly, peer reviewed articles, but people get stupid whenever lactating boobs are involved...as Kwasnica alluded to with "women and their dirty feminine fluids that need to be kept under control." I can't imagine why any thinking person would see this "study" as legit, and those actually familiar with peer-to-peer milk sharing do not.
So, on behalf of all my loud proud feminist lactivist friends, Pediatrics can go suck on it...