Breast milk, the latest product to be commercialized in the orgy of conspicuous consumption that is natural parenting

compact electric breast pump to increase milk

I’m a bit late to the party of those writing about the ethics of commercializing breast milk, but I’d like to offer a different view of the issue.

I submit that the commercialization of breast milk is the inevitable result of the natural parenting industry’s relentless commercialization and promotion of products and services that no one needs, primarily to enrich itself. It’s yet another example of how “natural parenting” costs a fortune and the benefits accrue most to the members of the industry.

The philosophy that sails under the flag of “natural parenting” ought to be free, right? It was certainly free in nature. But instead it is remarkably expensive and, therefore, an indubitable sign of middle and upper class privilege.

Consider:

If childbirth is natural, why do you need to hire an army of consultants from childbirth educator, to midwife, to doula? In nature, women were assisted by friends and companions for free.

If childbirth is natural, why do you need to buy an array of herbs and supplements? Animals don’t use them; they don’t work, and they cost money.

If childbirth is natural, why do you need any books, relaxation tapes, birth pools or birthing balls? None of those exist in nature and all cost money.

If breastfeeding is natural, why do we need lactation consultants? In nature, women were assisted by friends and family members for free. Prior to the 1980’s any woman could be assisted in breastfeeding by La Leche League, a volunteer organization. But then La Leche League realized the money to be made by professionalizing breastfeeding advice, and created the lactation consultant credential. It started an organization to administer (and charge for) the credential and women suddenly had to pay for assistance they previously got for free.

If breastfeeding is natural, why do we need breast pumps and supplements to stimulate milk production?

If attachment parenting is natural, why do women have to buy slings to hold their babies? Animal mothers don’t use slings.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. You don’t need any of these things in order to give birth, nourish and raise a baby, but the natural parenting industry insists that you do because that’s how they make their money.

It was only a matter of time before a black market in breast milk arose, so that women who couldn’t make breastfeeding work by buying the services of lactation consultants could fork over a fortune buying the breast milk itself. The black market in breast milk is unregulated; there is no screening; there is no pasteurization and it is nearly impossible to know if you are getting the substance you paid for.

The problems with a black market in breast milk are legion. Studies have show that the milk is often contaminated. Microbial Contamination of Human Milk Purchased Via the Internet, was published in Pediatrics in 2013. The authors found:

Most (74%) Internet milk samples were colonized with Gram-negative bacteria or had >104 colony-forming units/mL total aerobic count. They exhibited higher mean total aerobic, total Gram-negative, coliform, and Staphylococcus sp counts than milk bank samples. Growth of most species was positively associated with days in transit, and negatively associated with number of months since the milk was expressed, per simple linear regression. No samples were HIV type 1 RNA-positive; 21% of Internet samples were cytomegalovirus DNA-positive.

CONCLUSIONS: Human milk purchased via the Internet exhibited high overall bacterial growth and frequent contamination with pathogenic bacteria, reflecting poor collection, storage, or shipping practices…

Just this week Pediatrics published a new study shows that commercialized breast milk is often adulterated with formula or cows milk in order to increase profit margins. According to Cow’s Milk Contamination of Human Milk Purchased via the Internet:

Ten Internet samples [10%] had bovine DNA concentrations high enough to rule out minor contamination, suggesting a cow’s milk product was added. Cow’s milk can be problematic for infants with allergy or intolerance. Because buyers cannot verify the composition of milk they purchase, all should be aware that it might be adulterated with cow’s milk. Pediatricians should be aware of the online market for human milk and the potential risks.

Why on earth would a mother feed her baby someone else’s breast milk that might be filled with bacteria or corrupted with cow’s milk, the very substance that these mothers were specifically trying to avoid?

Why? Because they’ve been indoctrinated to believe that breast milk (even someone else’s breast milk) is “liquid gold” when it is nothing of the kind. To my knowledge, there has not been even a single study showing that there is any benefit to feeding someone else’ breast milk to a baby.

But that doesn’t matter because parents have also been indoctrinated to believe that raising a superior child “naturally” is a project to be managed with lots of money. The commercialization of breast milk is merely the latest form of conspicuous consumption, easily available to the privileged and utterly out of reach of those lower on the economic scale.

In fact the only thing surprising about black market breast milk is that it took so long for the natural parenting conspicuous consumption brigade to think of it.

  • Nathalie

    I’m a La Leche League Leader, and I don’t get any money to help mothers breastfeeding! And: Mothers can’t be helped by friends and neighbors anymore ti breastfeed, because they don’t know anymore how it works. In the small village my granny comes from, all women knew how to breastfeed (and how to give natural birth), there wasn’t anything else at that time. No formula, no doctors, no midwifes, no hospitals…

  • Camilla Cracchiolo, RN

    There are also companies marketing breast milk to neonatal ICUs who are charging incredible amounts for this stuff, yet paying the donor mothers almost nothing. The mothers are supposed to do it out of altruism (and calls for breast milk for hospitalized babies *are* often met with incredible generosity on the mothers’ part) but the corporation is making very healthy profits.

    • Amy M

      Are they charging fees for the processing?

      • Camilla Cracchiolo, RN

        Not sure, but probably. Point is, they are not a non-profit corp. This isabove and beyond operating expenses. Moms must give altruistically for profits of others.

    • Nicole

      I was a breastmilk donor and I don’t think they are making the huge profits you think they are since they pay for screening of the donors and shipping of the milk both from the donor and to the hospital. Additionally they pastuerize and test the milk.

      https://www.hmbana.org/

      Maybe there are some for-profit companies out there but this one is the biggest and a non-profit (though I would be interested in seeing with their executive salaries’ are but that is my curiosity for all non-profits). Mothers can choose to donate where they want and if they want to donate free milk to a for profit company that’s their business. I had milk that would have gone to waste had I not donated. Which would be better to donate to a company or throw it out?

  • Ardea

    I think I read that some of the buyers for breastmilk are people like male body builders, not just women who think they need it for their babies.

    • Ash

      Yep, this is right. People who think it has curative properties for illness, maintaining youthfulness, athleticism, and some have a fetish for lactation.

  • Guesteleh

    OT: Midwives in UK continue to say appalling things to James TItcombe (who is unfailingly polite even as he presses them to take on some accountability)

    @JamesTitcombe did you ask doctors the same question? We have the review, you are part of it. It feels like you're harassing us James.— Sheena Byrom (@SagefemmeSB) April 9, 2015

    • Guesteleh

      More:

      @JamesTitcombe @millihill If you consider this person's calculations valid, I'm worried. I would like the Maternity Review team to advise.— Sheena Byrom (@SagefemmeSB) April 9, 2015

      • Guesteleh

        @SagefemmeSB @millihill @NHSEngland Are you implying that I'm not a fit person to sit in the maternity review Sheena?— James Titcombe (@JamesTitcombe) April 9, 2015

        • KarenJJ

          I can imagine the staff at NHS head office feverishly reading through Dr Amy’s blog to give their considered opinion on the information contained therein to Sheena Byrom and develop a policy to prevent the NHS from being influenced by Dr Amy’s blog.

          • A

            Exactly. It’s so stupid that she keeps forwarding (or threatening to) anything she disagrees with to the NHS. It’s obvious she’s only trying to intimidate James in order to silence him – he’s not the one doing the harassing here. But we can’t have someone speaking out against dreadful practices that cause deaths if that means that midwives’s risk losing income and autonomy, now can we?

          • KarenJJ

            Looking at the timeline I got the impression that James Titcombe copied the NHS twitter into the exchange first and then she’s come back defensively with hollow threats that sound ridiculous. Most likely NHS is feverishly developing a policy to get staff to shut up and quit mouthing off on twitter. Especially to a family member that has lost a child due to negligent care under the NHS.

    • I’m amazed that these terrible women are even employed right now. If I even insinuated some of the nasty, immature nonsense they were spewing in the public forum, let alone threw my weight and connections around to bully the family of a victim, my ass would be grass so fast it would make my head spin.

    • lilin

      “My baby died uselessly due to negligence. I want to know what steps you’re taking to prevent something like that happening again.”

      “You’re harassing us!”

      Ugh! That’s so disgusting. He doesn’t have to justify anything about his questions. And how dare she use the implied threat that she’ll claim he’s “harassing” her! She should be thanking him for the years of work he did bringing this to light when the people in her profession should have been policing themselves.

    • Cobalt

      THEY KILLED HIS SON!

      There is no “harassment” in making sure they don’t kill again.

    • Mac Sherbert

      Wouldn’t the smart (if not professional) thing to do be not to engage in arguments over twitter all? Whey don’t they just say something like ‘Mr. Titcombe, we are so sorry for your loss. Twitter is not the place for these kinds of debates. Let the review speak for itself.’ —It’s hard for me to understand their mindset.

    • LibrarianSarah

      So she tried to get him in trouble with his employer because one of his tweets hurt her precious fee-fees and HE is the one harassing HER. At what point does cognitive dissidence become delusion?

  • Megan

    I’ve actually heard that the biggest buyers of breastmilk online are men with fetishes and people looking to cure cancer and any number of other illnesses. I’ve even heard stories of men asking the women selling the milk if they could watch them pump or if they could have “adult nursing relationships” with them. There are actually categories of sellers on one page listed as “willing to sell to men.” Creepy…

    Part of the problem I think is that the WHO lists donor milk as preferable to formula. They mean pasteurized milk from banks of course, but I hear activists spout off all the time that “formula is the fourth choice feeding method” failing to mention that they don’t mean unregulated milk online and that the guidelines were primarily created for third world countries where there is not reliable access to clean water.

    • Bodybuilders and people with severe psoriasis, as well.

      • FEDUP MD

        So I am breastfeeding and have sever psoriasis. Haven’t slapped any on my skin though.

        • Do it! Do it for science!

  • Trixie

    I’m just picturing black market breast milk being carried around in $280 Kate Spade diaper bags and being surreptitiously handed off, Spy vs Spy style.

  • carr528

    Gotta stand up for my sling. When you’re taking three kids to “Meet the Teacher” day a week after having a c-section with the fourth, wrapping the teeny tiny baby up in the sling so I could have both hands free was a life saver. I rarely wore my sling at home, but when she was tiny, that’s what I used instead of a stroller.

    But, yeah, anyone who buys breast milk off of CL basically deserves what they get. Just buy formula. At least you’ve got ingredients to read.

    • MegaMechaMeg

      No hating on the sling here, they are my go-to newborn gift for knocked up friends 🙂 I have this great source for 100% linen and I hand embroider trims along the edge and my friends tell me they come in super handy. I personally cannot have a baby in anything other than the most secure of buckled contraptions without feeling like I am about to dump or sufficate them, but slings fold up so much easier and if something makes you life better I am totally on that team.

      • FormerPhysicist

        For slightly older kids, I love the mei tai. Unstructured, so it folds. Mine are too big for regular carrying, but I still keep it in the emergency pack when hiking with the Girl Scout troops. Really useful if you need to carry anyone out. (Yeah, I had to carry a 7-year-old with a twisted ankle. Only 1/4 mile, but the extra security instead of a plain piggyback was awesome.)

        • Reading through this thread I am reminded of what happened when I put my 9 lb newborn in a sling on my chest. I almost fell over onto my face with him underneath me.

    • lilin

      I don’t think the problem is slings, so much as it’s being told that slings are more “natural” than anything else. Slings themselves, I’ve heard, are pretty good.

      • Mac Sherbert

        They are so natural and the answer to every problem! If you would just babywear it would all be good. 😉

      • Guesteleh

        There are sling classes in my neighborhood to teach you how to use it. My reaction was “…really?”

        • Stacy48918

          I don’t think I’d go to a class, but I found YouTube videos to be really helpful to learn how to safely get baby in and out. It’s not intuitive and slings can be both difficult and dangerous.

          • Guesteleh

            That’s one reason why we did the Baby Bjorn, the other being my kid hated the sling. A lot of NCB’ers in my neighborhood are chagrined to find out that not all kids are into being slung.

          • KarenJJ

            Yep – my kid hated being confined in an Ergo. I had to get a baby bjorn so she could kick her feet around.

          • Dr Jay

            Oh my God, this. One of the midwives at work gifted me the most divine sling…I’m sure it was very expensive. And when I put the boy in it, he would kick his little legs straight out, flail his little arms and scream blue, bloody murder. Hilarious. We are definitely silky around here!

          • SuperGDZ

            Mine also hated the sling, but enjoyed the baby bjorn. I live in South Africa and the traditional practice here is to tie baby onto the mother’s back with a towel or blanket. No additional equipment required.

        • carr528

          It took us three you tube videos and some trial and error before I was willing to venture out with mine. Mine was a ring sling, so it takes a little work the first time to get it situated. If I’d been thinking, I would have asked a friend to show me how to use it BEFORE Baby arrived. Thankfully, no one landed on the living room floor when I was trying to figure it out. 🙂

        • Liz Leyden

          I used a Boba wrap (like a Moby wrap, but stretchy) with my son when we were in Boston. He loved it, and it made grocery shopping much easier. I managed to figure out wrapping him on my own, but I would’ve appreciated some live help. My daughter’s cardiac surgeon said his son was 7 months older, and he never figured out to use a Moby wrap.

          • Trixie

            I lived in my wraps for the first few months with both kids. It was great. But yeah, unnecessarily complicated.

        • Mattie

          Actually a good idea, although it’d be nice if they were free (unlikely). The slings that are basically just long pieces of fabric that wrap in various ways can be really difficult to use, and having someone work with you and check the tension and positioning of the fabric as well as teach you different methods for different carry positions etc… would be helpful, as improper sling positioning can hurt mum and also potentially not provide sufficient support for baby and baby could fall out, or suffocate, which would be v bad. Ideally this stuff would be done for free by friends and family, but why would it be free when someone could make money from it.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            This is in the states but we do have a baby wearing group that will demonstrate different carriers and how to use them properly for free in my area. I think there are other groups across the US too. I mean, typically they are the granola types so you have to tolerate a bit of that but they will happily show how to use different carriers safely for mom and babe.

          • Marie

            There are a few classes in my neighborhood, but they seemed so full of pretentious crunchies that I stayed far away. I watched YouTube videos instead.

            I adore my Ergo carrier, but realize it isn’t for everyone. The Moby wrap was nice when my son was a newborn and was comfy post c-section. I also loathe the term “babywearing.”

        • KarenJJ

          My neighbourhood is so non-crunchy that we have classes on how to push prams and safely put them up and pull them down again…

      • Dr Kitty

        We got a sling and an Ergo type carrier for the kiddo. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use them once she got over 5kgs, because of my back, but we thought DH would find them useful.

        DH and I liked them fine. Kiddo went rigid and screamed any time she went in one. We borrowed various models from friends and relatives, but it was a universal thing and she didn’t grow out of it.
        My kid wanted to be held in your arms, or put in a carseat or buggy. No slings, thanks all the same!

        She also had strong feelings about hats, nursing covers and pacifiers, which again can be summed up as “nope, why are you people trying to kill me!”
        In my case, the lady with the stroller who was nursing without a cover was choosing the option that resulted in a quiet, happy, fed baby.

        The Slings will come out of the attic for this baby, but I have no expectations that they will be used.
        After BF #1 without a nursing cover out of necessity, I’m no longer bothered about it, but this baby might be one who likes seclusion to feed, so we’ll roll with whatever works.

        Sometimes your parenting aspirations and plans come up against the brick wall of your child’s preferences and personality. That is an important parenting lesson.

      • Bombshellrisa

        Exactly, my son was perfectly happy to hang out in the Bjorn and then the Ergo when he was older. Now that he can walk, no more Ergo. He hangs out in his stroller and loves that. It’s what works best for us, but I was recently “educated” by a member of the Mid Willamette Baby wearing group about my parenting choices. No, I am not a member of the group but they feel the need to proselytize to/shame women who don’t identify and form a group around how they choose to schlep their kid around.

        • lilin

          Ugh. If you can, take their picture, get their name, put it on the internet. They want to shame – they should get shamed right back.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I’m of the “if it feels good do it” school of baby porting. If a sling works, use that. If a bjorn works use that. If a stroller works…you get the idea. I used a combination of sling, bjorn, stroller, jogging stroller, and blanket to carry small one from point A to point B when she was younger. It all worked in various contexts.

      • I myself prefer carrying them by the napes of the neck. …Actually, I might be thinking of panthers.

        • Linden

          OT: Kitties!!

          • Daleth

            Kitty kitties!

        • Ooh! Mommy is scruffing her baby!

          I have kitten fever. “I want a kitty!”

    • Allie

      I don’t think Dr. Amy is actually hating on slings, or any other “attachment” practice that is desired by mother and baby. What she hates on is a fake industry that puts infants and mothers at risk by a slavish and misdirected desire for “natural” childbirth and parenting. If you want to wear a sling because it is convenient for you and baby and you enjoy it, by all means. But it’s not “natural” and it’s not better than the preferences of another mother and baby who do things differently. I do some things that are considered “attachment,” but I never did baby-wearing because LO and I simply didn’t like it. We do bed share at the moment (she’s 2 1/4), but we are doing up her room and will strongly encourage her to use it when she’s ready. We have friends who moved their 8-monoth old to a crib on a different floor of their house, and other friends who still bed share with their 7-year old, although they have been strongly encouraging him to move to his own, fully furnished room for years. They are happy, their children are healthy, safe and happy, and no one’s choices are “better” than another’s. Just different.

  • toni

    Very OT: how vigilant are parents here about putting sunscreen on their children? do you put it on them everyday whatever the weather as seems to be current recommendations? Do you keep them inside from 10-4? Is the science settled about that because I’ve also read that noon is the best time to be out for vitamin d absorption and that the suns rays at midday are less likely to cause the really nasty skin cancer than the late afternoon rays. I’ve been trying to be really good about sunscreen and only letting him out before 10 and after 4/5 (before the mosquitoes come out) but keeping him inside so much is making my son stir crazy, he acts like I’m rubbing acid into his skin when I put on the sunblock and will not keep his hat on. We live in florida and the lack of shade provided for playground equipment makes me so anxious about letting him play with his friends at the park.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Current best guess? Try to keep him from getting really severe blistering burns and don’t worry too much about it besides that. The really nasty skin cancers (melanoma) are associated more with getting severe burns a few times in childhood than with having a mild sunburn all summer. The other skin cancers are nuisance illnesses as long as you don’t let them go ridiculously long.

      • toni

        So is all this stuff about sunscreen 365 days a year, no exposure 10-4 etc overkill iyo? Like no alcohol at all during pregnancy? i hope so because it’s making life a lot less enjoyable..

        I mean putting sunscreen on him every morning is not much of a hassle but the recommendations are to reapply every two hours, even under the clothes. it’s just not practical and my husband is starting to think i am insane lol

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          Unless you have a strong family history of cancers or multiple moles (as in >100, not > 1), yeah, it’s probably overkill. The majority of the melanoma risk is probably related to genetics, but sunscreen is something we can alter so it gets played up because no one wants to shrug and let it happen.

          • toni

            I have like 4 (beauty marks if you don’t mind haha) and I’m dark skinned which I think reduces my chances. I wear sunscreen myself more out of vanity (prevent wrinkles etc) than health concerns tbh. my mum was good about putting spf on us but we were at boarding school most of the year and spent hours everyday playing outside unprotected so I worry a bit now that I have read you can still get significant, irreversible damage from the long wave uva rays (that are strong even in cold climates) so avoiding burning isn’t enough. And that any sign of tanning = skin damage. despite my efforts my son’s arms and legs are slightly darker than his torso

          • demodocus’ spouse

            The paler you are, the more important the sunscreen, but it can help everybody. Took a couple boys in our baseball team a solid week in the sun to tan noticeably from their usual deep brown. They were shocked to be “two-toned.” (My very pale spouse burned, despite the SPF 50, while my tan just deepened a bit.) Recommendations seem to tend to be directed to the silliest among us.

          • Mishimoo

            I also managed to get sunburnt through 50spf applied regularly. It stung a bit, but wasn’t nearly as bad as it would have been if I hadn’t been wearing any. (Apocalyptica were worth it though)

          • Who?

            Yes I burn through sunscreen and even through fine fabric ie lightweight or loose weave cotton or linen, so the shade and a big densely woven hat and sunglasses all the way for me.

            I was always fanatical about sunscreen for my kids, esp the fairer one, and they are mindful of it now. We only had zinc cream as kids, and I had sunburn all the time in summer. Thankfully the kids don’t have many moles, my husband has none. I have many dozen, some of which have to come off every time I have a skin check.

          • Mishimoo

            My husband is covered in freckles and recently had a cluster removed because they changed colour. Turned out to be nothing, but it amused the surgeon that I paid enough attention to notice this small clump of freckles linking up and darkening slightly amid all of the other ones.

          • Who?

            I feel for your husband. My skin is shocking. A gp friend came in for the kiss recently and got so distracted by the mole on my arm that I ended up kissing the air somewhere past the back of her head. She didn’t quite write the referral then and there but sent me off to my gp double quick, so that’s one more scar to add to my tally.

            Thankfully my gp is happy to do minor stuff so it isn’t so much fussing as it would be to go to the surgeon all the time, but sometimes I either have to-tricky spot-or she would prefer it to get a better looking result, particularly on my face and neck.

          • Mishimoo

            I’m glad she noticed it!!

            The surgeon is part of our GP’s practice, he only does minor stuff and works 2-3 days a week . It seems to make things more efficient which is nice because it’s a very busy practice. It’s the same bloke that had a bit of a rant about the breastfeed-at-all-costs idea, because he is tired of mums coming in and demanding to have anything that vaguely resembles a frenulum snipped, when they should really consider using bottles (expressed milk, formula, or combo) instead. He specified that it was said as the proud but slightly confused father of someone that nursed her baby to 14 months.

          • Mac Sherbert

            My kid has a granddad that died from melanoma and other close relatives that have had cancerous moles removed. Most people probably think we are overkill, but then they don’t know our family history either!

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            That’s not overkill, that’s targeting your behavior to match your risk factors.

        • LibrarianSarah

          I think a lot of the recommendations to wear sunscreen everyday have more to with vanity than health. UVA rays cause wrinkles, women are supposed to never get wrinkles (because the passing of time is evil or something) therefore using sunscreen everyday is advised to keep you from getting wrinkles.

          That said I wear sunscreen everyday because my father got skin cancer and I have what my doctor called “a mild sun allergy.” So SPF 50 everyday and I keep my arms and legs covered at all times. I think most of my coworkers think I am a religious fundamentalist.

          All that being said, once your kid is a teenager and starts using anti-acne medications you should start making him wear sunscreen as well. I’ve read that anti-acne medications make skin more sensitive to the sun.

        • Mishimoo

          I try for the middle road – my mother bought into the “sunscreen is dangerous” when I was a kid, helped along by the fact that I’d blister when it was applied and only be mildly sunburnt without it. Turns out that my skin hates parabens and sunscreen with other preservatives works just fine. I had 5 suspicious moles removed by 25, thanks to growing up in the tropics without sun safety.

          For my kids, who are even more pale than myself, we stay in the shade or wear sunscreen when we’re going to be outside longer than the minimum burn time when the UV index is High or over. If it’s Low we don’t bother with sunscreen. Here’s a site (it’s Aussie but you might find it reassuring): http://www.sunsmart.com.au/vitamin-d/how-much-sun-is-enough

    • Cobalt

      I’m really terrible about putting sunscreen on unless they’re likely to be out in the sun for hours. I also use the fine mist spray on kind instead of the others, because it’s so much easier. Also, sleeves and hats, including the “rash guard” shirts for swimming.

      If all else fails, keeping to shorter durations of exposure. Playground in the sun for 30 minutes, then snack in the shade then back in the sun.

    • carr528

      Mine are all fair skinned redheads, so I’m pretty vigilant if we’re going to the pool. Otherwise, they’d burn to a crisp. We use a high SPF as well. (15 or 30)

    • demodocus’ spouse

      It seems a bit of overkill to put sunscreen on during the winter around here. But then, I live along Lake Erie and we hardly see the sun through much of the winter. My little half-Irish kiddo does get lathered up throughout the summer. Is vitamin D deficiency much of a problem for Floridians?

      • toni

        idk! I imagine a lot less than most places but as I put sunscreen on him almost every day and he has a dark complexion I’m guessing he’s not getting a lot via the sun.

    • Mac Sherbert

      I attempt to remember to put sunscreen on mine everyday. They go out everyday for PE and recess as long as the weather is good, so I have no control as to when he is outside. Mine’s a fair skinned fellow and since school he’s gotten freckles across his nose. I’ve been to FL a few times so I understand your concern. The mid day sun there will bake you fast! Not to mention that the playground equipment also gets very hot. We don’t live that far south and I only do the parks first thing in the morning in the summer.

    • Dr Kitty

      Irish climate means daily SPF is not required.
      In the rare event of sun I put Riemann’s P30 on her before she gets dressed and send her to daycare with a hat, sunglasses and some high factor kid’s spray for top ups to her face and hands.

      I’m a big fan of the P30, because it lasts a lot longer than other sunscreens, so you don’t need to top up much, or rely on your kid or teachers to remember to top up the SPF.

      For myself on holiday in the sun, for example, I would just use one application of the P30 a day and nothing else, and I won’t burn. I have a Mediterranean complexion that tans well if given the chance, but rarely gets to.

      P30 smells funny, stings if you get it on your eyes and stains clothing if you don’t wait 15 minutes for it to dry, but it does work.

      • Dr Kitty

        I’ve put the wrong name.
        I use Riemann’s P20 in the SPF30 strength, which my brain always shortcuts to P30.
        Just in case you think I have imagined the product.

    • Depends where you live. In Israel, even the winter sun can be very strong, and once the spring begins, and the children go into lighter clothes, sunscreen every day! We don’t keep them inside, but use floppy hats a lot.

  • I am not surprised. Not even mildly – although I am profoundly disappointed that the organizations (including government bodies) with the mandate to protect consumers and the health and well-being of people have failed to protect women, and the most vulnerable members of society – their babies. They failed to impose reasonable regulations and safeguards, with respect to homebirth (lack of oversight, lack of qualifications, lack of recourse) and now with respect to the black market sale of breast milk. If a person was selling semen, ova, blood – or even cheese for that matter, they would likely be facing sanctions. If a person was conducting medical/dental procedures without a license in their basement – again they’d face sanctions. But when it comes to women and babies, and activities that are not dissimilar there’s a free pass?

    • Liz Leyden

      They might not face sanctions for cheese if it was made from raw milk. Crunchy types in my state are campaigning hard against warning labels on raw milk products.

      • SporkParade

        But I bet they are all in favor of labeling GMOs, even though pasteurization is a scientifically meaningful term and GMO isn’t.

        • Trixie

          But what if it’s GMO raw milk?

          • Amy M

            yeah, we discussed that below…I think as long as we label the cows, its all good…

      • Amy M

        These people would have been buying Fanny Farmer’s Female Friend by the case, back in the day, huh?

      • Mariana Baca

        See, I’m all for “you can sell whatever you want” but also for “if you label it wrong or don’t label it appropriately (and have some way of proving it), I can sue you for fraud and damages”. Either stand by your product, quackery and dangers and all, or don’t sell it. (the unregulated sale of breastmilk is particularly egregious).

    • toni

      is it even of their radar? I don’t think I would have imagined in a million years that people would purchase a stranger’s breast milk via the internet instead of just using formula if I had not followed this blog. it’s a lot more niche than even home birth

  • Liz Leyden

    According to PubMed, some studies have shown lower rates of NEC in preterm infants fed with donor milk instead of formula. That’s an argument for milk banks, not for buying breast milk from strangers over the internet.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25554263
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12696478
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25051591

    • Mattie

      Milk banks are good, as are blood banks and organ donation programs. I wouldn’t buy someone’s breast milk online and feed it to my baby any more than I’d buy a pint of O-neg or a kidney off craigslist.

    • Trixie

      Agreed, was just coming to bring this up. Donor milk through regulated milk banks is a safe choice and potentially lifesaving for preemies. And it’s in short supply, because qualified and dedicated donors are few and far between.

  • PickAUserNameForDisqus

    There is something worth thinking about with the “commodification” of “women’s work”. It isn’t solely because of the idolatry of “natural” parenting, but also because of historic inequality of education, and opportunities for women. I believe there is something more complicated going on, because I understand why strangers had to replace the family and friends of days of yore, and I also understand that these replacements should be reimbursed for quality help. But the quality is important, and it does women no good to perpetuate the inequality of education by providing bogus help under NCB and AP fetishism.

    • Guesteleh

      In a weird way it’s an effort to boost the importance of “women’s work” by monetizing and fetishizing the most labor-intensive practices.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        It’s not so much an attempt to boost the importance of women’s work, but an attempt to restrict women to only the home or women’s work.

        • fiftyfifty1

          Yes, if it were an evenhanded attempt to boost the importance of traditional women’s work, they would be pushing it on men as well. Obviously the breastmilk part men can’t do. But the baby-wearing, homemade homegrown baby food, attachment parenting, elimination communication etc. parts anybody could do. But it’s only pushed upon women.

          • Amy M

            Yeah–only women are shamed for parenting wrong. If Dad shows any interest or involvement at all, he’s lauded as a hero, or patronized as a babysitter. (by the NCB crowd. Not by most of us here, I hope)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I will say, being called a babysitter was for more offensive to me than being called an “involved dad,” although I can’t stand either of them.

            Being out with the kids during the day and having someone ask, “Oh, you’re babysitting today?” pissed me off to no end. I’m not their babysitter, damn it.

          • That gives me the rages forever.

          • fiftyfifty1

            It is offensive. Fathers are not babysitters. That’s offensive to the father, and offensive to the mother.

          • Cobalt

            Men are better at saying no and feeling good about it, to the point where society doesn’t even ask anymore.

            The real trick is identifying how and why they are so good at avoiding this bull and making the skill and cultural allowance more universal.

  • Cartman36

    Am I the only one who finds it a tad ironic that people so hell bent to avoid formula that they are willing to buy breastmilk online have a high likelyhood of buying breastmilk cut with cows milk or formula. It would be funny if the risks to innocent babies wasn’t so high.

    • Mattie

      Tbh you’re probably lucky if you get it cut with cows milk or formula, a lot is cut with water and often not pre-boiled which obviously isn’t sterile, add that to improper refrigeration when being transported and then that gross mess being fed to a baby at room temp or slightly warm and just ew, no thanks. I wish more people who wanted breastmilk for their babies and couldn’t use their own would get it from milk banks, it’s screened and made safe, and more demand would hopefully mean more milk banks.

      • Amy M

        Well, yeah, but there’s that whole supply issue…

        • Mattie

          Yeh of course =/ if all hospitals had a milk bank then perhaps more women would be inclined to donate. However, most milk banks are altruistic so don’t pay women for milk, and seems that women are doing it for money rather than the…milk of human kindness shall we say.

          • CharlotteB

            I can’t imagine that it’s worthwhile, financially, to provide screened, pasteurized breastmilk to healthy, full-term babies who would be just fine getting formula. Maybe it would be if you charged $5/oz or something. But still–I bought a small can of formula yesterday, brand name, no coupon, at a regular grocery store (not Wal-Mart or CostCo), and it works out to about 19 cents per ounce. Telling parents to buy breastmilk seems completely unethical and greedy. Before introducing solids, my son ate 20 oz of formula/day ( I also nursed)–that’s $3.80 per day vs. $20+. If I’d remembered my $5 off coupon (sent to me by the formula company, since I registered on their website), it’d be between 13-14 cents per ounce. It’s hard to see the formula companies as particularly greedy, in comparison to black market breastmilk.

            Wouldn’t pasturization destroy some of the good stuff in breastmilk anyway?

  • JJ

    I love this! “It’s yet another example of how “natural parenting” costs a fortune and the benefits accrue most to the members of the industry.”

    I am also thinking of the opportunity cost for the whole family. If a mom must stay home, breastfeed, ect then it may be keeping the family from having better housing, food, and medical care because of the loss of her income/benefits. It also puts undue psychological costs on women with guilt, shame, anxiety. There is always more to do to meet that perfect ideal natural lifestyle.

    I really regret that I felt I should not work while my first was young. I was called and offered an even better job for the city department I worked for previously out of the blue when my son was about 18 months old. It really could have helped me mentally and the income would have helped as my husband started his own business. There was even a nice little country daycare down the road from our home but I was so anxious about my son being there. This is why I will continue to rail against the natural childbirth/parenting industry!

    Then of course the danger of feeding your children (what might be) breastmilk you sourced from strangers. More risk, more inconvenience, and maybe even more financial loss (I don’t know how much craigslist breastmilk costs) .

    • Cobalt

      Human milk on Craigslist starts at around $2/ounce. Babies usually drink 25 to 30 ounces per day.

      • JJ

        Thanks for the info. I looked around and formula is a fraction of the cost at about 12 cents per ounce!

        Here is one source http://www.thelaboroflove.com/articles/how-much-does-baby-formula-other-baby-supplies-cost

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Wow. I totally overproduced when I was nursing and ended up just tossing the extra. The money I threw away…

        Actually, I wish I’d thought to donate it to a legitimate milk bank for use with premature infants. Or maybe made a cake with it. But I don’t think I could have looked in a mirror again if I’d sold it for $2/ounce.

        • Cobalt

          It’s more in richer areas, you can see it marketed from moms who eat organic, paleo, etc. for triple that.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            I can eat an organic, paleo, gluten free diet…at least as far as anyone on the internet knows. (Seriously, if no one verifies that the milk is even human, how do we know what the woman who produced it ate? Or what else she did? Like smoking, for example.)

          • Amy M

            Or shooting smack. Or having HepC. Or just sending a bottle of straight up formula and calling it breastmilk. I just can’t get my head around the fact that there are people who didn’t think of these things.

          • Cobalt

            Too much formula would change the smell (and the subsequent baby poo) too much. The hepatitis/narcotics however, is undetectable.

          • Amy M

            I guess formula would look/smell different, but if a woman had never breastfed and relied on buying the milk online, she might not know the difference.

          • Cobalt

            The poo difference is pretty well known and highly touted in breastfeeding circles. Their kid’s shit literally doesn’t stink (at least according to the marketing).

          • Daleth

            That actually seems inconvenient to me. I like knowing when my kids just pooed, so that I can change their diapers immediately.

          • Who?

            I think people forget that you don’t actually ‘know’ people online-think of the relationship scams going on all the time. And they also forget that unless you have known someone very well for a long long time, you won’t know what they might have been exposed to.

            And anyway, only the best people breastfeed; and breastmilk is so special and magical they would just know if that wasn’t what they were getting.

        • Mel

          I’m realizing that our dairy farm is WAY less profitable than it could be. I’m gonna go change my masters’ project and start working on breeding cows that produce human milk…..oh, drat….I’m assuming GMO’s are off-limits for that market…..

          See ya guys in about 50 years 😛

          • Amy M

            Dang–it could totally be done. Just have transgenic/knockout cows that can express all the important human milk components and suppress all the potentially harmful (to infants) cow ones. We can make “humanized” mice whose immune systems are made up of human cells, so not much a of leap to humanized cows that can produce the equivalent to human milk.

          • Mel

            They’ve done crazier things involving goat’s milk and spider web silk, too.

          • Roadstergal

            The thing is, splicing a different gene in for casein isn’t crazy at all – it’s super-simple and super-genius. Much easier than changing the % balance of protein/carbs/etc in cow milk to make it closer to human.

            Now if we can just get a cell line from human breast tissue to produce the human milk oligosaccharides that are responsible for protection from NEC, we’d have some truly good formula.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            They might not like it, but I totally love this idea.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Mel – don’t worry, just start selling raw milk on the black market. You can charge $15 – 20 a gallon. No, it’s not as good as $2/oz, but then again, you have a massive supply.

          • Mariana Baca

            If you had no ethics, you could just add some flavorants and claim it is breastmilk.

          • Daleth

            Just go find some underemployed local women and switch your dairy over to human milk. You’ll be rolling in cash!

        • FEDUP MD

          I gave mine away. I took allergy meds, fine for breast feeding, and couldn’t donate. So I gave it for free to a friend who adopted a baby. (She knew about the meds).
          I couldn’t justify making money off it. Seemed wrong. Figured she saved a pile in formula cost for something that otherwise I would throw in the trash.

          • Mattie

            I don’t know if there are studies, although I’m sure I remember something from A-Level psychology, but I think that altruistic donations produce safer products. Blood for example, when donors are paid it becomes a last resort for some people to get money and then the blood might be contaminated with drugs or disease (this sounds really awful, like I’m saying all poor people are dirty, diseased drug addicts, that’s not what I mean). Like a junkie needing a fix might try to sell their blood for money…. whereas if you’re doing it because you want to help people you have nothing to gain by giving tainted products, other than not being able to help people which is what you want.

      • JJ

        The daily cost of 30 oz is $60 a day vs. $3.60 a day!!!!! Yikes!

      • Amy M

        And how many anti-formula folks complain about the cost of formula, being a key factor as to why they are opposed to it! Breast milk is free! Right? Unless you are buying suspicious breast milk from Craigslist, and then it costs more than gasoline

  • Amy M

    This is just like the placenta capsules–I know Bofa has discussed how an unethical person could encapsulate some dirt and sell it to someone who thought she was getting placenta pills. For all we know people already do that.

    It seems obvious that buying an unregulated, unscreened bodily fluid over the internet is kind of sketchy and it sucks that women who do it have been convinced that [doing that] is safer than using formula. We know exactly what’s in the formula and as long there is clean water, nothing else is in there–not listeria, not HIV, not anything the baby can’t tolerate.

    • Mel

      I always figured finely ground beef jerky would be a good substitute. It was pass a visual inspection of what I think encapsulated placenta should look like.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Yeah, Amy is misremembering a bit. I’ve suggested sawdust, not dirt. It would be a closer visual. Shredded beef jerky would be ok, too, but more expensive (although at that point, it’s irrelevant)

        • Amy M

          Sorry. 🙁 Dirt, sawdust, either way, its a swindle. 🙂 Would various low-grade meats from the butcher be cheaper? That would be a good substitute.

          • fiftyfifty1

            No, because you would still have to go to the trouble of drying it in the dehydrator and shredding it. It’s not the cost of the raw material, it’s the labor.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            But still, a little goes a LONG way. We have beef jerky in the freezer. A single package of that chopped in the processor could make probably 100 pills.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Dehydrating-very labor intensive. Also gross.
            Shredding-not too labor intensive
            Packing the capsules-very labor intensive.
            Sawdust= easiest and almost free, somewhat less realistic
            Ground jerky= fairly cheap, slightly more work, quite realistic
            Meat from the butcher= quite cheap, tons of work, mildly gross, very realistic
            Placenta=very cheap, but tons of work and super gross, very realistic
            pick your poison

          • Amy M

            Or maybe just buy something in an opaque capsule, like vitamins, and then sell it to the unsuspecting mother at a 500% markup.

  • Mmm. Malk.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      It’s probably a bad sign for my psychatric state that my first thought was, “Malk is going to be expensive: think how many mice (rats?) you need to produce that much malk.”

      • Mel

        But TCAMN, how are you going to get people their Vitamin R without Malk? Think of all of the Vitamin R deficiencies…..

        I’d bet you’d get more milk out of a mouse than you’d expect at first. Plus, they breed really, really efficiently, so your herd would scale up really fast.

        Assuming one month gestation with 5 females per litter and rebreeding every 3 months:
        One female at month 0–> six breeding females at the end of month three –> 36 breeding females at the end of month 6–>180 at month 9 –> 900 at a year.

        • Amy M

          Even sooner–mouse gestation = 21 days.

        • Alex

          After some (not really) scientific search on google. Rats do appear to have proportionally a high milk production. But they are so small, it would take somewhere between 600-800 rats to have the daily production of a cow. So you would need tens of thousands of rats on a farm. And hundreds of thousands of babies you don’t need (maybe you could start making a new brand of natural, free ranging, growth hormone free, antibiotic free rat meat sausage or something)

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Rat veal. I’m not sure whether to say “ew!” or suggest we patent the idea.

          • Alex

            It’s only the logical next step in biologic/natural nutrition. Most animals in nature eat their prey whole. Therefore, eating only muscles is not natural, we should eat everything. Grounded meat with whole newborn rats is the most natural, healthiest meat out there. If you manage to also put in the rat placenta and umbilical cord, it will also probably cure cancer. We could make millions!

          • Mariana Baca

            The number of rats is not as much of a problem as needing 800 tiny milking machines and tubes that don’t clog, etc. And have a dude hooking them up.The costs of machinery and labor would be astronomical.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “And have a dude hooking them up.The costs of machinery and labor would be astronomical.”

            We shall have The Illegals do it for us at rock bottom wages.

          • Who?

            Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

          • Nick Sanders

            Actually, there’s already a market for baby rodents. Exotic pet stores sell them as snake food.

          • Alex

            Well, there are about 10 millions milk cows in the US alone. If we exchanges each cow with a conservative 500 rats each, that’s 5 billion rats. If we reproduce them each 3 months for milk production, with an average of 4 babies each time, that’s 80 000 000 000 baby rats each year. We are going to need a lot of snakes.

          • Mishimoo

            Yup, plus breeding is a bit of a crapshoot. Not all babies survive birth, not all of them feed efficiently, some are born with lethal defects, some fail to thrive. There’s also a huge problem (at least, in Australia) with respiratory illness. The life expectancy for pet rats over here has plummeted thanks to breeding practices. Like NCB echo chambers, they don’t like anyone with a scientific background and ostracised a guy that had years of university level study in the subject, even though he ran the only really active forum for Aussie rat owners/breeders.

      • Or the BEST SIGN!

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          🙂

  • Cobalt

    I see a lot of parallels between the behaviors and culture of milk buyers and heroin buyers.

    The pricing, quality control, and obsessive procurement are very similar.

    The addiction to prideful ideology is dangerous and senseless.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Too true. My father was a chemist for the DEA before he retired. His descriptions of what was in the drugs he analyzed put me off unregulated recreational drugs for life. (Especially after my experience in organic chemistry lab removed my delusions about how well I could make pure substances myself…)

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    Kind of off topic and I hope I don’t start something here, but…Breast milk sales over the internet are an example of the libertarian ideal free market. And, suprise suprise, it’s full of cheating, contamination, undisclosed ingredients, and danger. There is no particular reason to believe that the people selling breast milk over the internet are particularly evil. They’re just regular people trying to make money and some may believe they’re helping women and babies. But no one can really be trusted to police themselves. The FDA needs to shut this down and it needs to shut the unregulated naturopathy industry down too. Surely we’ve killed enough people with “natural” medications by now to make people want to be sure that the supplement that they think they’re taking is really what they’re taking and that it has been at least proven safe and, hopefully, effective.

    • Cobalt

      Adding cow’s milk to breastmilk and selling it online is particularly evil. It involves knowingly putting an infant at risk of harm. The samples with typical bacterial contamination are probably selling something they would give to their own babies, but adding a known dangerous substance is exploiting an ideological addiction for profit.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Yep, but not outside of the bounds of normal human behavior. The milk fat measurement was originally developed not to make skim milk for the overfed people we are today but because milk manufacturers were diluting their milk with water and adding various substances to make it look “milky”. The assay was meant to catch that bit of cheating and keep the milk supply reasonably pure. Lacking that control, well, this sort of thing is inevitable.

        • Cobalt

          Human nature does include the impulse to lie, cheat, and steal. That’s why society regulates it’s members, because we know we’re jerks in a group.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “Adding cow’s milk to breastmilk and selling it online is particularly evil. It involves knowingly putting an infant at risk of harm”
        Well, only for that small % of kids who have a cow milk allergy.

        • toni

          it’s not dangerous to give a newborn a mixture of cow and breastmilk?I thought the whole make up of cow’s milk was all wrong for a human baby (unless they do whatever they do to it to make formula)

    • Amy

      You forgot the secret ingredient that makes it all work, safely and perfectly– libertarian magic dust!

    • Ash

      Breastmilk is so lauded that some of the buyers aren’t even parents with babies–they are ppl who have a fetish or adults who think it’ll bestow health qualities

      • Bugsy

        Eeeew!

      • Amy M

        I saw something on facebook where someone wanted to give some breast milk to her uncle who was dying of cancer, to help cure him. Yeah.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          Given the bacterial contamination, it might cure him of cancer via the “dead people don’t have live cancer*” route.

          *Well, usually. Henrietta Lacks.

          • Amy M

            Yeah, she was putting this to a crowd of rabid lactivists and her issue was “How do I broach this idea to him?” None of them questioned that maybe drinking breast milk wouldn’t do a damn thing to cure cancer. They all thought it was a great idea.

          • Roadstergal

            Many, many cancers live on in infamy, or at least in cell culture medium.

            (HeLa cells are… not right. Great for making lots of protein, though.)

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Correct on both counts. Hela cells are so not right that I’ve seen claims that they’re actually a separate species. Kind of makes you think twice about eugenics when you know that the first post-human species is something like an amoeba.

          • Guesteleh

            What exactly is it that makes HeLa cells so not right?

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            To start with, they’re hypertriploid (have something like 80 chromosomes). They’re also practically indestrucible. I was working with some once and was planning to run a cell survival assay on Hela cells with and without exposure to a stressor. I accidentally left them sitting on the lab bench without culture medium for something like 15 minutes. I ran the assay anyway because I was feeling bored and some of them were still apparently alive. I HOPE and am pretty sure I just messed up the assay (it likely gave a false negative on dehydrated cells or something) but I threw the whole mess into the autoclave and then the biohazard waste anyway. Just in case they were planning to take over the world. They also appear to be able to invade other cell cultures, as in move from their petri dish to others. Again, I’m hoping that’s just bad lab technique (not mine this time), because if they’ve learned to walk we’re doomed. DOOMED I say.

          • Amy M

            Yeah, I’ve done various cell-based assays, including with HeLa–they are pretty hardy. But pretty much all immortalized cell lines are totally unrecognizable from the original tissue at this point.

      • Cobalt

        I think the adults with fetishes buying milk for personal use is an ethical market. It’s certainly more honest than health reasons, and if they’re willing to cook it it’s probably pretty safe.

        • Ash

          I am 100% sure they aren’t cooking it. some sort of magical freshness/vitality is part of the appeal

          • Cobalt

            I’m ok with that. An adult choosing to drink raw milk as a fetish is unwise, but adults are allowed to hurt themselves. There are much more dangerous fetishes.

          • Ash

            Agree, I don’t really care either.

      • D/

        How about this Chicago salon?
        “I really wanted to come up with something that is quick, effective, that appealed to the urban city girl”

        Hmmm, think, think, think … I know, $40 breastmilk facials “lathered lovingly” onto their faces.

        http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/news/a37382/breast-milk-facials/

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          For no good reason, this one grosses me out.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            (Grossed out at the idea of getting one myself, that is. I don’t have any problem with anyone else doing it except for concern that they may be putting a biohazardous fluid on their faces. If the milk were screened and regulated properly it wouldn’t bother me for someone else to do it, but personally…ick!)

          • D/

            Mostly just makes me sad to realize I have even less in common with “urban city girls” than I already knew 😉

    • Mariana Baca

      Most libertarians, unless they are anarchists, still believe fraud and medical misrepresentation should be illegal. If you sell something other than what is described, that is fraud and should be sued. The government is a legitimate resource for people causing harm to others via lying or contamination. From the libertarian party’s platform: “Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm.”

    • Jennifer

      Only hard core libertarians advocate complete removal of regulations or oversight. This is like saying all liberals are communist.