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Thursday, January 26, 2006CNN.com ran an article today called "Not your mother's breast milk." It started off pretty interesting, making mention of a woman that nursed her sister's six month old and thought nothing of it. It went on to talk about the new movement toward using the Internet to buy, sell and trade breast milk with perfect strangers.
Apparently CNN ran a segment tonight on Paula Zahn that talks about a new black market for breast milk and the online article was a companion piece. Not having CNN, I'm not able to watch the segment, but hopefully a Lactivist reader will fill us in on what it says, or a transcript will show up on the CNN web site.
The issue has me somewhat torn. As a milk banking advocate, I obviously would prefer that women that wish to share their milk would do so via one of the HMBNA milk banks so that things can be properly screened and the babies that most need that donated milk can get it. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with "wet nursing" when it comes to sharing with friends or family...but the whole random people on the Internet thing...I dunno, it kinda creeps me out.
Just this past weekend a friend was visiting from out of town...they arrived late and weren't sure they'd have enough formula. The grocery stores in town aren't open 24/7 up there, so it might have been an issue if they ran out. I told them that I still had some breast milk in the freezer and that they were welcome to use it if they were comfortable with the idea. I'd have no issue sharing my milk with someone that I knew. I've been tested via the milk bank, so I know it's safe.
But with a stranger? I suppose I'd still happily share mine with a stranger, it's what I did via the milk bank, but to RECEIVE it from a stranger? No way. Absolutely no way. Not unless it's coming through a milk bank and is fully processed and tested.
Now I strongly believe in the power of breast milk. It's clearly the absolute best food for babies...there's no doubt about it. But...formula also exists for a reason. I'm thinking that the types of moms that so desperately want to give their children breastmilk that they'd take it from a stranger have likely done their darndest to nurse. It's likely that small percentage of women that honestly cannot produce milk for their babies and they so desperately want their children to have breast milk that they'll take it wherever they can get it.
Breast milk banking in the United States is still rare enough that it can't simply be doled out to any mother that wants it. You need to have a prescription and you need to have a need beyond "my otherwise healthy baby isn't getting breast milk." It seems to me that while there are likely some wonderful, healthy women out there willing to share their milk, there are also some real low life creeps willing to pass off whatever as breast milk in order to make some money.
I can't imagine being so frightened of formula that I would risk my child's life with milk from a stranger...it's just not worth it.
So what do we do about this? Is this partly our fault for so pushing breast milk that we make some moms think that they have to do anything and everything to provide it? Are we encouraging moms to take dangerous chances for the sake of breast milk? Is it wrong to sell your breast milk to a stranger? To donate it (on your own) to a stranger?
Would you share? Would you sell? Would you buy? What if you couldn't nurse your child...sure, I can see going to a relative or a friend, but would you go to a stranger?