Monday, January 12, 2015

Paying Moms for their Milk - a slippery slope

There is no question that human milk saves human babies. But when a mother cannot produce sufficient milk for her infant, what are the options? Certainly, for the very premature, there has been a bit of a resurgence of nonprofit milk banks, especially HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America) in the US and Canada. Conceptually, this is for milk sharing and pasteurization to attempt to avoid any disease passage to these most vulnerable infants.

There has also been a resurgence in milk sharing. Again, when between consenting adults, this also can play an important role.

But, as with all things where there is a possibility of profit,  the slippery slope of commercialism comes in. Don't get me wrong - I believe in enterprise. However, when the profit motive slips in to health care and wellness activities, or for purchase of human cells or organs, we have many many additional considerations to explore.

There is another word for when women accept payment for their bodies. And the women involved in this trade are forced into it due to poverty of one sort or another.

When we ask for women to sell their milk when their child is still nursing, we are asking that the the milk, even if there is surplus, be denied to their own child. Conversely, one might say, this may be the only product a poor woman has to sell, and why not allow payment for their careful collection and sharing of excess milk? We pay for the sweat of the brow, shouldn't we pay for other productive work? When a poor person is offered money for something they can spare, especially in this country, where WIC can provides a "substitute" for free for them to feed their infant, offering payment may seem generous.....or coercive.

The heart of the issue to me is one of availability full unbiased information and free choice among choices in a system that is free of fiscal or personal or health system coercion. Unfortunatley, ours is not such a system.

Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association of Detroit has taken a stand on this. If you would like to know more, please visit: