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Is Facebook milk the next breast thing?

It caused quite a stir last year when Arizona mid-wife and mother Shell Walker set up the Eats on Feets page on Facebook, offering her excess breast milk.

It caused quite a stir last year when Arizona mid-wife and mother Shell Walker set up the Eats on Feets page on Facebook, offering her excess breast milk. Now boasting 122 Facebook chapters in about three dozen countries, the practice is global.

But not everyone sees this as the milk of human kindness. Like many health professionals, Lois Arnold is aghast at the trend. Arnold is the program co-coordinator for the American Breast-feeding Institute’s National Association of Donor Milk Banks. These non-profit donor milk banks provide fully screened pasteurized human milk by prescription, often for premature and weak babies, as well as older children with disorders such as digestive problems.

“Donor breast milk is nothing new, it goes back 100 years,” says Arnold. “But this kind of thing is extremely risky. People need to think twice. Babies build up antibodies to the mother’s infections through breastfeeding and in utero, but not against someone else’s. The more donors, the more risks, too.”

There’s also the issue of fraud. Someone could simply use cow’s milk and sell it as human.

“Sharing informally like this is so dangerous,”?Arnold says. “There are no guarantees of safety.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website warns against Internet-acquired breast milk, listing dangers such as exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, chemical contaminants and drugs.

“It’s not just HIV contamination,” says Arnold. “Something as common as herpes can kill a baby.”

 
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