Black-market Breast Milk. Other People’s Milk. Organic Human Milk. There are many terms and vogue names for the subversive sale of a woman’s breast milk. The trend of going behind closed doors to sell your own milk is the new rising trend. Two major questions need to be explored when considering the pressure to become a veritable breast milk vending machine. Is it ethical? Is it legal?
Most women produce far more milk than the child can actually consume. You may find yourself pumping, freezing, and storing the extra amount just to end up eventually tossing the remainder of what can’t be used for the baby’s food. A popular, and admirably altruistic trend has quietly been unfolding; women who will pump, store, and supply the excess milk to donation banks such as the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin. This is an admirable endeavor to support and assist mothers with special needs children, trouble with lactation, and even those who use prescription medications causing milk contamination. The milk donated to these banks are specially filtered, treated, and decontaminated to give pure and healthy milk to those in need for as little as $2.00 per ounce (which pays for the safe processing and handling).
Now, due to the ever rising competition in the market place, some women are turning this new trend into their own personal, please excuse the term, cash cow. Claiming “I am HIV/HEP free. No drug/alcohol, even RX. I take vitamins and calcium daily and I don't drink cows milk” and “Free sample upon request to prove quality and safety”, some are making this issue into moral conundrum.
A few very healthy women who produce more milk than needed for their own child have the need for extra funding and ask “Why is this wrong?” We are all aware of the rise in the prices of diapers, bottle liners, clothing, etc. Is it truly inappropriate to profit from your own healthy body?
Others simply donate directly to the parents of ill children or mothers who are unable to lactate themselves. They find comfort in the knowledge that their milk is helping to keep other children growing and strong. So, the real question becomes, why are these options unethical?
To being with, the milk that is sold by private parties is not guaranteed. Some have relayed horror stories of paying upwards to $5.00 per ounce for “clean” beast milk only to receive a package in the mail, not refrigerated, with a bag of curdled milk inside the box. Women find themselves duped by promises of clean, safe, hygienic milk for their own babies. Even if the milk is entirely clean and hygienic, that does not mean it had been treated carefully enough to help children that are already ill and need delicate sustenance.
Now, disregard all of this to wonder about the content of breast milk. The finest, simplest, most perfect thing to nourish a human child to grow. Consider that sushi binge you went on for two years in college; that comfortable new carpet; the mouse pad that’s thinning on the edges from being rubbed by your hands, time and time again; your next-door neighbor just stained his new wooden furniture, your body will absorb all manner of nasty little toxins and hold fast to them, ensuring to pass it down when you purge and purify your body by expressing your breast milk. The unique fatty cells within the mammary gland will actually hold onto all the wonderful carcinogens you’ve been exposed to since the day you were born, just waiting to be passed down to your sweet and unsuspecting child.
This is no cause for serious alarm. Studies have shown that although you may pass down a plethora of toxins and chemicals to your baby via the expression of your milk, you also pass down certain immunities unique to the mother-child genetic bond. The milk you give your own child is much safer than if you were to provide for someone else.
This is where the milk banks come into the picture. Their pricing of milk directly relates to the careful handling and processing of donated milk, ensuring careful safe decontamination of al toxins, from a latent flu to the PBDE’s (flame retardant chemicals) you absorbed sitting in your kindergarten class oh so many years ago. This is essential to providing safe nutrition to the children who, for whatever reason, cannot gain sustenance from their own mothers.
The goal of making a quick dollar by selling unprocessed breast milk, when you’ve done your homework, seems like a terrible and shallow method to profit from the possibility of causing lower IQ levels, a predilection for diabetes, and even stunted growth hormones.
There is also an even stranger trend to all of this than previously considered. With the influx of interest in all things organic and natural, women who adopt and are involved in all-natural foods are actually turning away from milk banks, preferring the unprocessed milk, which has been called “Organic Human Milk”. An educated woman should be concerned about the effects of using another woman’s seemingly safe milk in comparison to the sterile and healthy product received from the donation centers.
Another issue to consider, while wading through this difficult and controversial subject, is - legality. There are no federal laws regarding the sale and distribution of breast milk. However, certain regulations do occur from state to state, as the progressive legislature begins to take notice of a growing problem hitting the public. It is not actually “illegal” to sell your own breast milk. On the flip side of the coin, women are finding it harder to make these sales thanks to the assistance of those who were previously considered “vendors” (internet sites, newspapers, and even mother’s magazines hidden in the back catalog of products with fine small print). Sites such as eBay and CraigsList label the sale of breast milk under the same heading as selling human organs and/or black-market adoption. It is difficult to find a venue where these ladies are allowed to do as they please with their own milk. Many local newspapers will immediately pull classified ads pertaining to the private sale of breast milk without refunding the individual. Even sites such as Google and Yahoo are attempting to crack down on this behavior by removing links to any pages that “support” the sale of OPM (other people’s milk).
Another little fact to add is that those who sell their milk, like a car manufacturer, may be held liable for all manner of “defects” caused by the unprocessed milk given to a child. There is little information to be found on the outcome of lawsuits against the vendor for issues ranging from behavioral disorders to learning disabilities. Living in such a litigious society, we can only imagine that the women who provide this milk to the highest bidder will be held responsible, perhaps even financially for the difficulties caused by their unsafe milk.
So, when you are faced with the issue due to being an overproducing mother, it not only seems like a much kinder and better option to donate to banks where the milk can be handled and safely distributed to those in need, it also appears to be a much safer avenue for the health of the child and your own monetary standing. It would be terrible to try and make some day-care money and end up being responsible for the medical bills of someone else’s child.
After an exhaustive search to find some human breast milk for sale, I found literally hundreds of pleas from both women and men, bidding as high as $7.00 per ounce of milk. Consider that the average 6 month old child may consume as much as 40 ounces per day. Those dollar signs really begin to multiply. Any healthy woman would be tempted.
In addition to the outrageous prices that some of these individuals were willing to pay, some of these classifieds provided information as to how the breast milk would be used. Many typical ads requested the milk to feed their healthy baby, yet, others were much more sinister with reasons ranging from “taste-testing” to “provide performance enhancement.”
Now, give yourself a moment to think about the beauty of donating that excess milk, giving away the nutrients you oversupply, so that another child can grown as vigorous and intelligent as they deserve. Also keep in mind that saving the receipts for all the materials used to pump, pack, and ship donated breast milk is important. Can you say tax deduction? After all, you are literally giving away an extension of your own body to help sustain the life of another child. Uncle Sam wants to reward good behavior like that.
Try to keep in mind all of these items when you are faced with this odd situation, whether you are a mother in need or a mom with too much milk. Healthy clean breast milk is a gift, a pure elixir of nourishment, vitamins, and life saving antibodies to help a child grow strong and safe. Do you really want to make money from the chance of causing harm to someone else’s child? Even as a gift to others in your community, wouldn’t you feel safer and better about donating to a bank to ensure the receiving child gets everything they need from your milk, and nothing they don’t need? Is it natural to want to help others when you have more than you can possibly use. Remember that the almighty dollar is quickly giving rise to legislation regarding this issue.
Do the right thing. Donate to your local milk bank. If you need further information, contact your local donation center and they will walk you through step by step to ensure your milk goes to good use.