A B.C. woman is warning others after she discovered someone was selling her breast milk on the internet.
Jodi Neidert has been donating her milk to families in need since 2016, after she faced her own challenges breastfeeding her first child.
She started by giving it through Craigslist until she learned of a group called Human Milk 4 Human Babies that helps families coordinate sharing milk.
On Sunday, she learned through the group’s page that a woman to whom she’d given about 650 ounces of milk back in December was selling it for $1 per ounce.
Neidert contacted the woman to confront her.
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“She admitted that she was, in fact, selling milk, and that it was mine. And she did say sorry, but I don’t know how believable it was,” Neidert said.
After speaking to other women on the Human Milk 4 Human Babies site, Neidert realized that the woman may have been at it for as long as a year and a half, and scammed upwards of a dozen mothers.
“I’m sure she’s made thousands of dollars off of it,” she said.
“It’s kind of like the feeling of someone breaking into your house: you go in and you just feel violated,” Neidert said.
“It gave me a sick feeling — this was meant for a baby. I hope in the end a needy baby got it.”
The sale of human milk for consumption is regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and regulations, and is not prohibited outright.
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But Vancouver-based lawyer Kyla Lee says the woman in this case could potentially face fraud charges.
“In the same way that people set up fraudulent GoFundMe accounts to get money for cancer treatment that they don’t need, you could be charged with the criminal offence of fraud,” she said.
Outside of groups like Human Milk 4 Human Babies, there are only four milk banks in Canada, including one at BC Women’s Hospital.
At those facilities, donors are screened and the breast milk is pasteurized. Health Canada advises against acquiring milk through the internet.
Shaz Tayebi, a lactation consultant with the Canadian Lactation Consultation Association, agrees.
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“I don’t recommend Craigslist or Facebook unless you know the person, you know their health, you know their blood work results,” she said.
But with demand high and supply low, many women continue to turn to the web to get breast milk for their babies.
In Neidert’s case, while the episode has been upsetting, she says the cause remains close to her heart.
But she says she likely won’t be giving it to strangers anymore.
“I have a family that I really like and I’ve kind of followed their story and I’m happy to continue donating to them,” she said.
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