A new study shows 10 percent of human breast milk purchased online is contaminated with cow’s milk. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Most doctors agree that ‘breast is best.’ Breastfed babies have lower rates of respiratory infections, ear infections, asthma, digestive problems, childhood obesity, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The public health message is being heard: in 2011 almost 80 percent of newborn U.S. infants were initially breastfed.
But sometimes mothers can’t breastfeed. They may not have sufficient milk production, or maybe their child is allergic to the ingredients in infant formula, so they seek an alternative: buying breast milk on the Internet.
“For an infant who is allergic to cow’s milk or failing to thrive because of formula, this is a huge public health problem.”
The FDA doesn’t approve. Breast milk purchased online isn’t always properly screened for infectious diseases, and it has a chance of being contaminated — with things like cow’s milk.
A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics reveals 10 percent of breast milk purchased online is contaminated with cow’s milk. A team at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio anonymously purchased 102 samples of milk advertised as breast milk online. They found 10 percent of bovine DNA in 10 of the samples.
This woman in Bangladesh receives educational text messages about baby care. (Scene from MAMA Global video)
Here in the U.S. pregnant women focus, sometimes obsessively, on diet, nutrition and prenatal vitamins — and debate about use of epidurals or C-section rates. But in the developing world, getting just the most basic information to pregnant women and new mothers has been a monumental task, and that lack of information contributes to high mortality rates.
Every day about 800 women in the developing world die during pregnancy or childbirth and more than 3 million newborns die of preventable illnesses every year, Kristen Gagnaire told me recently. She was in San Francisco spreading the word about MAMA, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. Gagnaire is MAMA’s global director and a firm believer in the power of education to make a difference. She’s working to get information out to help save lives via a surprisingly simple platform: the mobile phone.
“The fetus develops in the same way in a mother, whether she’s in Zambia or she’s in California or she’s in the UK.”
MAMA is a global public-private partnership launched two years ago by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. USAID, Johnson & Johnson and the U.N. Foundation are all involved. And so is San Francisco’s BabyCenter (a division of Johnson & Johnson) where we met, along with Colleen Hancock, BabyCenter’s global chief operating officer. On its website BabyCenter says one its main areas is to provide “expert advice” about pregnancy, childbirth, babies, toddlers and more. It is a trusted source for women in the U.S. and other western countries. Continue reading