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WakeMed breast milk bank gives moms safe alternative

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Online breast milk sales became popular because it's cheaper and more available than breast milk banks. Online breast milk sales became popular because it's cheaper and more available than breast milk banks.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Much of the breast milk sold online could be contaminated with high amounts of bacteria.

Researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital found staph, strep and E. coli in breast milk purchased online.

And the longer it took to ship, the more bacteria was found in samples.

The study cites several cases in which babies got sick by a stranger's milk.

Online breast milk sales became popular because it's cheaper and more available than breast milk banks.

WNCN visited the only milk bank facility in the state at WakeMed. In fact, the WakeMed facility is one of only two on the East Coast, according to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

At WakeMed, officials said the real issue is a desperate need for milk donations.

"We're dispensing about 15,000 ounces a month, mostly to hospitals," said Sue Evans of the WakeMed breast milk bank.

Hospitalized premature babies take priority, and that limits the supply for mothers who can't produce on their own but still want their babies to have human milk.

One baby who was born two months premature named Rayna is thriving in the neo-natal ICU. Her mother, Robin Creason, credits the hospital with providing more than just medical care.

"My milk was a little delayed coming in," she said.

"Breast milk is better but maybe not in every circumstance," Evans said, citing the fact that some breast milk purchased online has been contaminated.

The limited supply and high cost of banked breast milk has led desperate moms to the Internet.

But a new study found high levels of bacteria and viruses in milk purchased online and in particular from onlythebreast.com.

NBC is reporting the company has now suspended sales.

Creason, for example, said she wouldn't want to get milk from the Internet.
"I want to make sure it is screened," she said.

 The cost at the milk bank is higher, at $5 an ounce. That's $20 for a 4-ounce bottle of breast milk.

But the milk is tested. For example, WakeMed tests for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis. And during pasteurization, bacteria and viruses are destroyed in the milk.

That is why one mother said she wouldn't use breast milk she bought from the Internet.

"If I had to use formula I would," she said.

WakeMed Milk Bank

  • The WakeMed Milk Bank started in 1992, and it is only one of 13 HMBANA milk banks in the U.S.
  • Only one of two serving the entire East Coast
  • WakeMed Milk Bank distributes an estimated 200,000 ounces of milk each year to premature babies in intensive care units (primarily locally and on the east coast)
  • The need for donor milk has been significantly increasing, and milk banks – including WakeMed – are struggling to keep up with demand
  • If you are interested in becoming a milk donor, please visit www.wakemed.org or contact the WakeMed Mothers' Milk Bank at 919-350-8599. 

Melanie Sanders

Melanie anchors the 6 PM news. Her "What's Next" series features an engaging approach to storytelling and highlights the leaders in innovation who are shaping our future. Check it out HERE! More>>

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