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Doctors warn against buying breast milk online

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KANSAS CITY, Mo -- The nation's pediatricians say new moms, beware: You should not buy breast milk for your baby online or get it from friends. The new policy statement says it's too risky.

At Saint Luke's Heart of America Mothers' Milk Bank, sacks hold donations of breast milk from women who've been carefully screened. The milk is cultured and fed to babies in neonatal intensive care units and also some at home.

Claire Baker has donated hundreds of ounces since the births of her two daughters.

"I just had so much that I truly did not have anywhere to put it after a point," said Baker.

Other women try to sell that extra milk. You can find them all over the internet along with buyers who say they need breast milk for their babies.

"You're playing Russian roulette with your baby's care and well-being," said Dr. Barbara Carr, a neonatologist at Saint Luke's.

Dr. Carr agrees with the new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It advises against internet-based or informal human milk sharing. Dr. Carr said you could expose your baby to diseases including HIV, hepatitis or syphilis. You could also expose them to legal and illegal drugs.

"You would never dream of giving your child a blood transfusion without dotting every "i", every "t" as far as testing that blood. Why would you take the same chance with your baby with breast milk?" said Dr. Carr.

Mothers may turn to the internet because the milk can cost less than it does from legitimate banks. Also, there aren't enough donors. Banks provided less than half of what was needed in NICUs last year, let alone what was needed for home use.

Baker encourages other moms to donate instead of selling.

"That money is not worth what it can really do for someone to just donate it outright to a milk bank like this and save a child's life," she said.

Dr. Carr said if your baby needs more breast milk, talk with a lactation consultant about how to increase your own supply. She said if you still need milk, and can't afford it from a bank, it's better to use formula than to buy it online or directly from others.

Women interested in donating may call 816-932-4888 or email kcmilkbank@saint-lukes.org. The bank will be closed over the holidays and will reopen January 3.