Thursday, March 03, 2011


Really fascinating story emerged this week about a grassroots mothers organization connecting new mothers unable to breast feed their babies with lactating women willing to donate their milk via Facebook.  The title of the article, which is exactly why I followed the link, referred to it as Black Market Breast Milk.

But, as it turns out, it wasn't about that at all.  I mean, it was about breast milk, but there was nothing underground about it. No overly engorged women being knocked out in hotel rooms in Vegas and having their boobs unwittingly expressed, only to wake up and find they were back down to a size A cup and awash in a strange sense of physical relief.

It was, however, about how some women who have chosen to nurse their babies in order to provide their little ones all the proven benefits of breast milk then find they are unable to do so, have found an affordable alternative.

I nursed the monsters til they were 2, pumping at work, and pumping in between feedings to keep up my production. It's not an easy thing to do, but once a woman has decided that this is the best path for her child, just step the hell aside, for pete's sake. Seriously.  She will do whatever it takes to get it done.

But aren't there already breast milk banks for that, you ask?  

     Yes, but it costs almost $4 per oz to have it screened and pasteurized (fyi, babies typically need 2-4 oz every 2-4 hours), and many women can neither afford the exorbitant fees nor the travel costs associated with getting to the nearest milk bank.

     Ideally, breast milk banks would be housed in every single hospital in every part of the world, filled to the brim with donated and screened breast milk, but, hey, they aren't.

So then how do you know the milk you're getting is clean and safe?

     Any lactating woman can have her milk screened by a medical professional and should be able to provide that confirmation sheet to the recipients. When women donate to breast milk banks, they are carefully screened and documented.  Some experts say that home pasteurization of breast milk (which, apparently, also destroys many of the nutrients and enzymes that make breast milk liquid gold) is also possible.  I am not an expert. But I'm sure you can Google them.

So, if it's not from a breast milk bank, where's it coming from?

  • Craigslist, of course.
  • An the Eats on Feets Global Facebook group.
  • But I would highly suggest avoiding driving to a seedy motel and taking it from a woman who hands it to you behind her back in a paper sack.

Haven't men been donating their unregulated sperm [that makes me snicker -- or is it snigger?] to women looking to get pregnant by a known donor for ages already?  And they sensibly discuss it and reasonably agree that he gets tested and checked and prove that he's clean before they take his junk?

     Yes, but clearly that's different. No, I don't know how.

And haven't we had wet nurses around for, like, thousands of years?

     Well, yeah, but they were usually relegated to the wealthy. And everyone knows those rules don't apply to just ANYone.  Also, 'black market' just gets waaay more hits than 'wet nurses' does.

Wasn't there some huge controversy about a woman breast feeding the baby of a complete stranger at a women's conference recently?

     Yes, and Her Bad Mother, Catherine, is still one of my greatest heroes of all time for writing about it in the very real, very raw, very truthful way she does.

So, for me, it seems to come down to making informed choices and decisions for you and your family.  It's not that I can't see the slippery slope that the unregulated selling of bodily fluids would thrust open. It's just that I think, ohforchristsakes, people, is it really not possible for us to treat each other like the community of human beings we are while still managing to take responsibility for our own decisions?

But if you still need more information to help you determine that this is really a decision between the woman who wants to feed her child breast milk and the woman who is willing to provide it, there is also an: to the comments section we go...

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