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Is donated breast milk safe? Examining milk banks versus Internet sites

baby bottle nippleMuch has been in the news today about the safety of Internet-procured breast milk, following a new Pediatrics study showing that milk samples from website transactions "exhibited high overall bacterial growth and frequent contamination with pathogenic bacteria." Babies given this milk, the researchers caution, "are at risk for negative outcomes."

On KCBS-AM this morning, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital neonatologist Ron Cohen, MD, who is also medical director at the Mothers Milk Bank in San Jose, made a point to differentiate between milk-sharing sites and legitimate milk banks. "In order to donate [at a milk bank] you go through the same screening process as a blood donor – in some senses it’s more strict," Cohen reassured listeners, explaining that donated milk in banks is pasteurized and tested before being frozen. And "any time we see milk that is worrisome, it’s discarded," he said.

Cohen noted that there is good bacteria in all milk and that low levels aren't an issue. "If milk isn’t handled well, the bacteria can grow to a very large number - and that's why there’s concern about casual sharing," he said of online transactions.

At children's hospitals, which often give donor milk from banks to premature and ill infants, the milk is "handled cleanly," he said.

Previously: Increasing breast milk feeding rates for preemies at California hospitals and More-nutritious breast milk for preemies
Photo by nerissa's ring

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