Where there is demand, there will be supply. And the demand for breast milk has seen this hot commodity being sold online. Find out whether it is a safe and viable option for you.
The benefits of breast milk are well documented and it is the first choice of milk for any newborn. The Daily Mail covers this market for breast milk which arose from Mums out there who are unable to breastfeed due to a variety of reasons; not enough milk production, post-natal depression, work etc.
A question of economics
The presence of a demand for breast milk has led to mums creating a supply to meet the demand. In the US and UK, sites such as onlythebreast.com have put up ads and classified for mothers to buy and sell breast milk. onlythebreast.com has over 14000 mothers in their community and one ounce (or 30ml) of breast milk goes for around $2.00 and can go up to about $6.00 per ounce on other sites. Mothers on the site have no qualms about selling their excess breast milk as it is seen as a viable alternate source of income for these stay at home moms. Besides these sites, some mothers have gone on Facebook as well as motherhood networks and forums to ‘sell their wares’, so to speak.
Helpful or harmful
Yes, breast milk might be the preferred milk as it is known to give babies better protection against illnesses, but does it do more harm than good when it is not your own that you feed your child? The concern of feeding your child breast milk from another mum revolves around the problem that the exact source of the milk is in doubt. According to doctors in Germany, the fact is that you can never fully guarantee the source of the breast milk and this could be a potential health hazard.
The president of The Professional Association of Pediatricians, Wolfram Hartmann also says that some of these donors could have infectious illnesses such as AIDS or Hepatitis or could even be on long term medication and drugs. He adds, “Nobody can check whether the unknown mother’s milk is harmless for the particular child.”
A question of ethics and safety
Readers we spoke to questioned the motivation of mothers who sell their breast milk online.
One reader, Mdm Lee, 35, said, “These women produce the milk free of charge, yet they are charging quite high prices for breast milk. I understand it’s a hot commodity but it’s kind of unethical to be profiting from another’s lack.”
Another reader, Maryam, 27, said, “Technically these mothers are doing work as expressing breast milk can be very tiring and even painful for some, so why should they not profit from their blood and sweat (literally).”
Other readers on the other hand questioned the safety of such sites, echoing the sentiments of Hartmann and saying that it this case perhaps formula feeding would be the best route. Why take such a big risk for the promise of health benefits of breastmilk when formula is proven to be almost as good.
Not every Mum can breastfeed, but there are alternatives other than going online to shop for milk.
Employing wet nurses or having a friend who is lactating allows for your child to breast feed without having to obtain breastmilk from dubious sources. These “breast friends” highlight the usefulness of having someone you know breastfeed your child as it is easier to trust someone you know that she does not possess any risk to your child.
theAsianparent also has a Singapore Breastfeeding Mums Support Group that you can join for mum-to-mum advice.