A few clicks was all it took.

There they were in plain sight: the babies for sale in Malaysia.

On Facebook, page after page advertises babies for adoption.

Their particulars are listed for the reader’s quick consumption: gender, delivery date, skin colour - and the all-important fee the "adoptive parents" must pay.

This was our gateway to Malaysia’s baby selling trade.

We’d heard rumours and read brief media reports of babies being sold in Malaysia over recent years, but how was this happening and why?

This is what we hoped to find out during our investigation for Al Jazeera’s 101 East.

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Starting with the social media posts, it didn’t take long before we discovered just how easy it is to buy a baby in Malaysia.

During our four-month investigation, we realised that far from being a few isolated cases, baby selling is thriving in Malaysia while the authorities turn a blind eye.

The social media pages claim to be support groups that help match women with unwanted pregnancies to childless couples desperate to adopt.

Posing as a childless couple wanting to start a family, we gained entry into this community. But our inquiries to the people responsible for advertising babies online soon revealed that this was no ordinary adoption process.

Each baby comes with a price based on its gender and physical appearance. Sellers claim it also covers the cost of delivery and a "consolation fee" for the biological mother. Prices range from $400 to several thousand dollars.

The reasons given for selling the babies vary, from needing money to pay rent or car loans to migrant workers needing cash to pay for a new work visa. 

And, it seems, there’s plenty of people willing to pay. Every post with a baby for "adoption" is met with a flurry of replies within minutes, and the deals are often sealed the same day, with traffickers taking a cut.

We focused on one particular Facebook user who frequently seeks "adoptive parents" for newborns. She calls herself "Bonda", or mother in Malay. 

Bonda sent us her bank account details and requested a registration fee if we wanted to adopt.

She claimed to be housing dozens of pregnant Indonesian women in four shelters, but said we’d need to get in early to "book" their babies. There is a lot of interest, she claimed. Bonda sent us a catalogue of pregnant women to choose from.

Throughout the investigation, it felt like we were living double lives. We kept up fake marriages and our cover story of being a childless couple to meet those involved in the baby selling chain.

We got to know doctors operating at medical clinics that serve as one-stop shops to facilitate baby buying. For the right fee, they promise to deliver a baby marked for sale and ensure that the buyers are listed as the child’s biological parents on the birth certificate, removing all trace of the baby’s true identity.

We pretended not to be taken aback when they boasted of their connections with corrupt government officials who they bribe to make the process trouble-free.

But alarm bells really started to ring when we learned that Malaysia's underground sex trade is cashing in on the illicit business by turning sex workers into "baby factories".

And when activists told us that some of these babies are bought not by couples desperate to become parents, but by syndicates who groom them for paedophiles, the sinister depths of this trade became all too real.

With no background checks on buyers, it’s impossible to know where these babies end up.

But we had the answer to our initial question.

The babies advertised for adoption are not just unwanted infants in need of a loving home. They are commodities in a clandestine black market.

And the traffickers, corrupt doctors and government officials are open for business.

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