Last week, Wired.com posted an interesting article, Liquid Gold: The Booming Market for Human Breast Milk, detailing the new business of buying and selling breast milk. I guess the “business” isn’t necessarily new, since women have been hiring wet nurses to feed their babies for hundreds of years. It’s the “selling” of one’s breast milk for economic gain that is the new “business.”
We all know the demand for breast milk these days is high. Since the Surgeon General’s 2004 report citing the benefits of breast-feeding over formula feeding was released, the amount of breast fed babies has steadily risen. So much that women who can’t breastfeed are now going to great lengths to provide breast milk, over formula, to their babies.
When our generation needs something or wants to sell something, we immediately go to the internet, so it’s no surprise that women now have online forums and groups where they can buy and sell breast milk. According to this article, breast milk, unlike other bodily fluids, is actually considered a food by the US government, therefore making it legal to buy, sell and swap. Since Craigslist and eBay have both banned these sales, websites such as Only the Breast and various Facebook groups have popped up to fill this need. These groups understand the supply and demand for breast milk, and are helping over-producing mothers with a freezer full of frozen milk make some money enabling them to stay home with their babies while other children benefit from getting nutritious breast milk over formula.
On the flip side, purchasing un-screened milk may also expose your baby to many other diseases. In November of 2010 the FDA, concerned with these sales sites, released a statement reminding women “when human milk is obtained directly from individuals or through the Internet, the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infectious disease or contamination risk. In addition, it is not likely that the human milk has been collected, processed, tested, or stored in a way that reduces possible safety risks to the baby.”
The article notes that in a 2010 Stanford University study out of 1,091 women who applied to donate milk to a bank in San Jose 3.3 percent were rejected after their blood samples tested positive for at least one of five serious infections such as syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human T-cell lymphotropic virus. Purchasing milk straight from another woman may also put your baby at risk if the lactating woman is drinking or using drugs. The final choice for mothers are certified milk banks, where the milk is screened and adequately stored. But milk banks rely on donations from lactating moms and don’t pay per ounce like the internet websites.
We all know that breastfeeding is an Internet HOT TOPIC that many of us hate to even touch. But we here at SDMOMfia want to know: would you consider buying breast milk from another woman to feed your baby, and would you consider selling your personal breast milk for profit