Experts argue in The BMJ Today that the sale of human breast milk on the internet poses serious risks to infant health and needs urgent regulation.
The nutritional benefits of breast milk for babies are widely documented, but many new mothers find it difficult or are unable to breastfeed. In addition to social pressure, this pushes some mothers to purchase human breast milk on the internet—a market that has been growing rapidly.
Despite appearing as healthy and beneficial products, many new mothers and even some healthcare workers are not aware that this market is ‘dangerous’ and ‘putting infant health at risk’ because it is not regulated, argues Sarah Steele, a lecturer at the Global Health, Policy and Innovation Unit at Queen Mary University London, and colleagues.
Online sellers can cut corners to save on costs such as pasteurization, testing for disease and contamination, and the appropriate collection, storage and shipping of milk. Milk should be screened for diseases, such as, hepatitis B and C, HIV and human T cell lymphotropic virus and syphilis, explain the experts.