Thursday, February 17, 2011

The buying and selling of breast milk

My friend Rachel posted this on my Facebook wall today:
"I saw an article this week about a woman who tried to sell her breast milk on the internet. I instantly thought of you and your views on the importance of breastfeeding when mothers are able. Do you think it's empowering to be able to give your child the nutrition they deserve, or does it question the value of this precious resource?"

My reply was after Arielle's. Arielle is the mother to a beautiful baby girl, who she also nursed:
"my mother was all about me selling my breast milk, but there is a whole bunch of testing and regulations and stuff you have to follow ... a famous actress caught a whole bunch of shit a cpl of years ago bc she was helping in a small village in Africa and there was this baby there who couldn't eat bc his mother had been so malnourished she had lost her supply so this actress was feeding this african infant and i guess the media was trying to say that that was wrong??! i dunno its pretty crazy ... i think of people who adopt newborns and simply want the best for them, and cannot provide their own breast milk so i think those are some of the people who purchase other women's breast milk"

And this was MY reply:

"Thank you for the post, Rachel. It's funny you ask me about this now; Charlie and I just had a lengthy discussion on buying or selling breast milk. If it ever occurred that I would not be able to nurse Lydia anymore, we would buy breast milk instead of switching to formula. I have a couple friends who I trust completely who have said they'd help me out with something like that. And I'd do the same for them!

Milk banks do require pasteurization and testing for communicable diseases. A mother seeking to donate can simply donate her milk in frozen form, and the banks take care of making sure it is safe for moms. I believe it is a complete testament to the fact that breast is better than formula when breast milk, even after pasteurization, freezing and testing, is still more nutritionally sound.

If a woman wants to sell her milk online at places like and other sites, she must follow some strict handling guidelines if she is to be seen as a credible seller. Many have their milk screened, others provide medical background checks and doctor's notes saying their milk is safe."

But here, I will add in some more thoughts on the process of purchasing, or selling, breast milk.  I believe it to be a completely sane and desperately-needed thing to do.  I believe wholeheartedly in a mother's right to choose, and have access to, what she wants to feed her baby.  Milk banks mostly donate to hospitals, but many have milk accessible to private buyers but it comes at a cost: almost $30-40 an OUNCE.  In contrast, on, mothers are selling their milk for single digit amounts; the most I have seen was $10 an ounce, and the mom was on her high horse about eating organic, living a clean lifestyle, never smoking, blahblahblahblah...All of that is VERY important, yes, but come on lady.

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (henceforth referred to as HMBANA) recently put out a statement on their website stating they are in a milk crisis and desperately need more donors to keep up with demand.  When Lydia is done nursing, I will do everything i my power to donate my milk. Or sell it, if we're in a financial crunch :) 

Sadly enough, many mothers whose babies pass away continue to pump and donate, calling it "mother's tears". I have two friends who have done that for the good of babies in North America who receive their gift. I encourage anyone reading to look into donating their leftover milk to milk banks through HMBANA. Information on their site,, describes the process of shipping milk to banks across the country. And if you're looking to make some side cash for your milk, is a good site on which to get started.

Baby has some serious discussion boards on the matter.  When asked whether or not moms would buy breastmilk instead of formula for their babies should they lose the ability to nurse, they responded in vigor:
"A form of this has been around for centuries–it’s called wet nursing. Upper class families routinely hired women specifically to nurse their babies. Some had the nursing woman come live with them and others farmed the baby out to the wet nurse, getting it back when it was weaned. Life was different then. So while it’s true that a mother’s milk is tailored to her infant and is undoubtedly the most ideal, there obviously isn’t a huge danger in having another person nurse your infant."

"I’m a nursing mom to my 6 month old daughter. I have had a bit of oversupply and have been pumping/freezing my milk for months now. I could not imagine just throwing it out…as I’m sure many of you that have nursed understand, breastmilk is like liquid gold! So I found a forum online that connects mom’s in need with donor moms. I was able to link with a wonderful woman that adopted her baby and really wanted to give her all of the AMAZING benefits that breastmilk has to offer. Can you tell that I agree that breastmilk is far superior than chemically created formula Anyhow, I donated 375 ounces so far to this mother in need and am willing to continue to do so to anyone that needs it. The United States has one of the lowest rates among developed nations, for breastfeeding their babies…and the highest rates of childhood obesity, ADHD, and autism. hmmmm? Is there a connection? Who knows. All I know is that women have a special kinship and bond with one another, and if a mom is willing to trust me enough to provide nutrition to her baby then I take that honor very seriously, and am proud to do so! There is nothing “gross” about it! Its natural. Its just milk, period! Just like other mammals nurse their young, humans nurse theirs. Certainly, you need to be confident that you can trust someone prior to feeding your infant their milk, but if somehting were to happen to my milk supply I would absolutely reach out to a donor mom and ask for hers…thats a beautiful thing."

"I consider the “Tit Nazi” title to be a badge on honor, but no, I would not use donated breast milk unless the donor was a personal friend or relative. The breast milk that goes through official channels is not only ungodly expensive, it also has to go through a pasteurization process which defeats much of the purpose of giving breast milk. The black market breast milk has too many factors I couldn’t control for. If my infant was so fragile that I would go to that length to obtain breast milk, I wouldn’t expose her to someone who might have ingested something and not told me about it. And I’m not envisioning a heroin addiction. It could be as simple as not being able to figure out allergies or not realizing the donor drinks too much coffee.
Formula is most definitely second best, but it’s not that bad."

Well? After all that hoohah, what do you think? Thanks, Rachel, for the inspiration for a blog on such a controversial subject. We all know how much I like those controversial subjects :)

1 comment:

  1. i am so tearing from the part about the women who pump after they have lost their baby! having a tough time with that at the moment <3 thanks for the awesome blog!!!!!