Women Take to the Web to Buy, Sell Breast Milk
By Rachel Walden — June 14, 2011
I don’t typically have “Wired” magazine in mind when I look for interesting women’s health stories, so I just stumbled across their recent piece on the online market for human breast milk.
In Liquid Gold: The Booming Market for Human Breast Milk, author Judy Dutton explores how and why women come to online sites to buy, sell and donate breast milk to other women (and a few men) as well as safety concerns and the benefits of breast milk. She also examines the question of whether individuals should be allowed to sell breast milk directly to other individuals, without going through a breast milk bank.
According to the piece, breast milk is apparently considered a food in the U.S. and so is not as regulated as tissues and blood are; buying and selling breast milk is apparently legal in most states.
Dutton explains a few reasons why women might want to go online for this need. Some women prefer to donate milk directly to another woman rather than have it be resold by a milk bank. Other reasons include the ability to alleviate financial difficulties by selling extra milk, screening and restrictions involved in donating to banks, the high costs associated with purchasing milk through a milk bank, lack of insurance coverage for obtaining donor milk, and the appeal of this simple 21st century update of the age old practice of women feeding each other’s babies.
What do you think? Should individuals be able to buy and sell breast milk? How do you feel about the risk of contamination and the lack of screening in person-to-person sales or donations? Is this something you would consider? Let us know in the comments!
A fried of mine went into end stage renal failure at 18 weeks pregnant, and after going into heart failure as well, her daughter was emergently delivered at 31 weeks gestation. For the first 5 or so weeks her daughter received breast milk that was donated to the NICU, as there was there was no way she could breastfeed. It was a wonderful gift, but every donation was tested for bloodborne pathogens. If I was in the same boat, I would gladly have accepted the same thing- but not if testing had not been done. HIV and Hepatitis are silent, and even “nice” women get them. I would never expose my child to transfused blood that had not been tested- and I treat breast milk in the same fashion.