VERIFY | Is it legal to buy and sell breast milk?

You can buy pretty much anything over the internet these days. But is it legal to buy and sell human breast milk? Is it even safe to share?

The Ohio Mother's Milk Bank is the only place in the state of Ohio that screens, tests, and pasteurizes human milk for infant consumption.

That milk is then sent to hospitals for their neonatal intensive care babies who get it by prescription. It costs $4.25 an ounce.

But the average mom who needs breast milk doesn't have access to the bank.

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Surf the internet and you'll find a number of people selling human milk along with group-sharing organizations that are community-based. But is this legal?

"It's certainly being done," says Dr. Jonathan Fanaroff, Co-Medical Director, NICU, UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. "I've never heard of a mom or a family member being prosecuted for doing it."

However, those internet sales are not regulated by any government or state agency.

A 2013 study by Nationwide Children's Hospital found 75% of breast milk samples bought off the internet contained bacteria, and 20% weren't shipped properly.

So is buying breast milk off the internet legal? Yes

Is it safe? Most medical professionals would say no. Talk to your pediatrician for options.

One other note, anyone can buy breast milk from the milk bank with a prescription but it is expensive. And during this flu outbreak, pediatricians at Rainbow and the CDC say mothers with influenza should temporarily not breastfeed their newborns themselves; however, they can provide expressed breast milk to their newborns via a healthy caregiver. The breast milk itself is still safe, and won't give your child the flu.


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