By KIA MORGAN SMITH
Lord knows I understand the desperation some moms have to get breast milk to their babies when they can’t produce it themselves. I was in that boat with my youngest child, Jo-Jo, who, after a series of appointments with our pediatrician and several specialists, was revealed to have a severe problem processing milk. Outside of my breast milk, baby boy couldn’t keep any milk down. Not dairy, not soy, not rice milk, not almond. So feeding him formula wasn’t an option, and despite my willingness to milk myself like a cow, my breast milk had already gone dry. No matter how desperate I was to get the good stuff to my Jo-Jo, I couldn’t.
But apparently, there are some moms who are willing to by-any-means-necessary it to get breast milk to their babies, and ABC News reports that women all over the country are now cashing in on what people are calling a mother’s natural liquid gold: human breast milk. A month’s worth can earn a seller anywhere between $300 and $1,200. To compare, a month’s worth of formula costs an average of $200.
Making $1,200 a month pumping your supply is a nice cushiony stay-at-home gig, I must admit. Some women put their breast milk up for sale on Onlythebreast.com, a Craigslist of sorts where lactating moms advertising their breast milk for sale are sought out by moms willing to buy it. The site, which bills itself as “a community for moms to buy and sell natural breast milk,” lists about 300 sellers and 50 buyers.
There are actual milk banks that screen milk, too. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) screens and sells breast milk to mothers. Bank officials say the milk itself is free (in some areas, there is a $3.50 charge), but buyers pay for the screening, pasteurizing and shipping. In some cases, health-insurance plans will pay for breast milk.
The feds have not yet outlawed selling or sharing breast milk, but California, New York and Maryland require that anyone providing breast milk to babies other than their own, must have a license, and that includes milk banks.
However there are lots of online communities like Onlythebreast.com where moms are selling unregulated milk and this is where, in my opinion, it gets dicey. Let’s be real: There are some real creeps out there who just want the money. They could have a drug needle in one and a breast pump on their 36 D shooting up poison while pumping out juice that will make them a real cash cow! Would I feed that to my baby? No thank you ma’am.
Why would I want milk from a perfect stranger who I have no documentation on? All kinds of questions would be packed in those bottles: Are the donating moms clean? Do they wash well? What do they eat and put into their bodies? What diseases could they possibly already have in their body that they could pass on to my vulnerable baby? How do buying moms know whether the selling moms are heavy drinkers, smokers or drug addicts? These are normal questions I think most moms would ask if they are considering buying breast milk over the Internet.
Of course I believe breast milk is great milk; I breast-fed all of my children. But in the cases of buying it over the internet, I would argue that the milk doesn’t always come from a good source. Here’s the risk and the rub: buying breast milk with no other oversight besides the honor system could run serious health risks for the babies of mothers who buy it.
Truth is, there is no surefire system to ensure that vulnerable and fragile babies get the good breast milk they truly need from mothers other than their own. I wish there was. But I wouldn’t trust giving someone’s unregulated body fluids to my baby. Would you?
Kia Morgan Smith, author of the delightful children’s book, Goony Goo-Goo and Ga-Ga Too, is a passionate and dedicated educator and former award-winning education reporter from Philadelphia. She has five kids and balances life like nobody’s business all of which she chronicles on her blog,CincoMom. She lives with her husband and their family in Atlanta.
Other great MyBrownBaby posts on breast feeding:
- Dear Michelle Bachmann: Shut Up and Sit Down
- Stick To It: Lessons On How To Keep Breastfeeding, Despite the Odds
- Nipples and Ninny: An African American Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.