What’s Wrong With Breast Milk?

I was inspired to have a little ramble about this after reading the wonderful discussion that sprung from the link I posted on our facebook page – the one about the Covent Garden eatery Icecreamists selling breastmilk ice cream. The dessert, called Babygaga, costs £14 a serving and is made from the donated breastmilk of one Victoria Hiley.

So we all know that breastmilk is the normal food for babies. Even parents who have never breastfed a child will mostly agree that it is natural, normal and the optimum nutrition for little people.

However there are a few cultures in our world that continue to drink breastmilk past childhood – namely the Mongolians. They believe that it is a magical drink that everybody should benefit from. If there is spare expressed milk in the Mongolian home, it will be drunk by somebody rather than go to waste. Indeed, breastmilk has some amazing properties (including the ability to kill several different types of cancer), so who could blame them for choosing to continue to benefit from it into adulthood?

However, us westerners live in a world in which breastmilk is often shunned for babies, let alone adults. After seeing the article about the breast milk ice-cream being served up in Covent Garden, I knew it would make for an interesting discussion. Many said they would be happy to eat it. Some said they would eat their own, but not someone else’s. And some of the mamas, myself included, said that they wouldn’t eat the ice-cream themselves.what's wrong with breast milk?

Yep, you heard right. Imogen, the tireless promoter of breastfeeding, wouldn’t eat breastmilk ice cream. And you know what? I haven’t even tried my own breastmilk. Yet.

This bothers me. It bothers me that I am so indoctrinated that I will happily drink milk made by a cow, intended for cow babies, but that I don’t feel able to try my OWN milk that my OWN body made. It’s almost like my brain is lumping my breast milk in with other bodily fluids that I wouldn’t want to consume, like faeces and urine. How wrong is that?!

That’s not to say that I think everyone should be running to their pumps in order to extract themselves some milk for their coffees. I happen to believe that humans shouldn’t be drinking ANY milk after the natural weaning from the breast that happens in childhood – usually by the age of 6 or 7, much younger in the western world. Cows milk proteins especially have catastrophic effects for the immune system and many, many people cannot tolerate dairy products.

My argument is that it is a very, very sad state of affairs when it is considered socially acceptable to drink milk intended for the babe of another species, but not to drink your own, or someone else’s breastmilk. Breastmilk is considered to be another ‘gross’ bodily fluid – often to the point that many babies don’t even get to taste it. Regardless of whether or not we think that adults should consume breastmilk, this is a clear sign that as a society we need to rethink what we view as acceptable and normal with regards to food. When the pure, organic, health-benefiting milk of a mama is considered to be ‘gross’ but we are happy to consume disgusting toxins and chemicals in our food, you know there’s something wrong.

I would love to hear your views on this. Head on over to our facebook community and take a look at the article, then come back here to share your comments!

Image courtesy of Daquella Manera @ flickr

Comments

  1. Kacey says

    My concern with consuming another human’s milk is disease. Relatively few diseases cross species and we’re unlikely to catch something from a cow or goat, but many a disease is transmitted through milk and human milk isn’t produced in a controlled environment which means it could be tainted with medications/alcohol/etc. That said I have tasted a drop or two of my own (fore)milk and it tastes just like cantelope juice.

  2. says

    Dh has tried it but I haven’t, I don’t know why either. I think I just fear it won’t taste good. I haven’t tried any other milk as an adult other than cows milk. Dh didn’t get much, he said he couldn’t really “taste” anything. I agree that cows milk has it’s downsides… Dh and LOs have skin problems I blame on it’s proteins. But at the same time it is very nutritional. It would make more since to keep consuming human milk but the supply could never meet the demand. So our choice is to either take the bad with the good or not at all. I worry so much about my kids not getting enough through food sources eventhough we do eat fairly good. I hate to just give them water to drink and the 4oz of juice they consume everyday.

  3. Melissa says

    My foremilk tastes exactly like rice milk. My hindmilk tastes like creamier rice milk (surprise, surprise! lol).
    Foremilk isn’t creamy enough for my liking in coffee, but evening hindmilk works a treat.
    Foremilk is wonderful on natural muesli, and hindmilk is delicious in porridge according to my daughter :)

  4. gill says

    There is a fascinating programme (channel 4?) about this very subject, a women who went to Africa and fed babies who were starving there when their mothers couldn’t feed them. Most women I think would say yes if someone they knew or even a strangers child was starving and they could feed them. I have heard of sisters feeding each others kids etc.
    What is really odd that this instinct to feed and help a helpless child seems to allow us to cast aside out ideas about breast milk/bodily fluids/disease.
    So strange how we think, a really good topic Immi x

    • says

      Oh i missed that programme when it was on but heard about that amazing woman… it was so wonderful, what she did.

      I would totally nurse someone else’s baby if they were in need. I’m not sure how i would feel about someone nursing my baby, but i would prefer that over them being given formula.

  5. says

    I’ve tried a bit of my own, just maybe a teaspoon amount, and it’s very good! Sweet. I can totally see why babies like it.

    Now I wouldn’t eat breastmilk ice cream either, but not because I think it’s gross. I find it a bit . . .disrespectful(?) just because it is so special! It is made by a woman for her baby. It’s so much work to pump, I can’t imagine just doing something as casual as making ice cream out of it, for random people to eat. It also loses some of it’s great properties when frozen, such as the living stem cells. I’ve heard of people drinking it as a fetish, as well, and think that is rude as well. I know a woman can produce more than is needed for her baby, but if she has extra, why not donate it to other babies that are in real need? Why waste it on adults?

    • says

      True… but at the same time, doing this will definitely go some way to desensitising the population to breast milk and will contribute to normalising it, which really needs to happen. Obviously though it would be better donated to babies via Eats on Feets.

      Hmm, yeah, the fetish thing weirds me out. I mean, each to their own and everything but still…

  6. says

    I’ve tried my own, I would compare it more to soya milk.. it’s got a sweet taste to it. I didn’t really like it as I don’t like sweet milk.. or tea/coffee but thinking about icecream it would be nice for that!! My ONLY issue with the icecream they’re selling is that there seems to be such a shortage of breastmilk for preemies in hospitals around the nation that wouldn’t it be better used there?

        • says

          yeah, as far as i know it’s because the milk is only used for little babies, and breastmilk made by mamas with much older children wouldn’t be overly suitable – although it’s still got to be better than formula, i’m sure!

          • says

            If I remember I’m so gonna ask my HV about that tomorrow!! I’m curious now and I totally agree that it would still be better than formula!!

      • Emily says

        Re: age of babies for milk donation – although that is an ‘official’ guideline, I know my local milk bank (so I assume others, too) will accept milk from mothers with older babies if you contact them directly. Even though it isn’t ideal, it is still better for tiny preemie tummies than formula is – which is the only alternative.

        • says

          That’s interesting, I didn’t know that! I looked into milk donation when Squish was little and I had an abundance, but I couldn’t seem to find any information about it. I wish i’d known about Eats On Feets back then!

  7. Jude says

    That programme can be seen on 4OD – the channel 4 website. Just scroll down the directory- can remember the title but it’s obvious when you see it. Very good it was too!
    I’ve tried my breastmilk when it had leaked onto my hand, very sweet. No wonder babies love it.

  8. Emma says

    This is something that my NCT group have discussed several times – why it is that 150 years ago wet nurses were common, and now it’s utterly taboo for a woman to feed someone else’s child. I exclusively breastfeed my son and have never got the hang of expressing, so it does worry me what we would do if something happened to me and I was suddenly unable to feed him, even temporarily; I don’t think he’d even know what to do with a bottle! Frankly, I’d rather know that someone else would feed him, even just a little to keep him going, AND I’d rather it was directly instead of expressed and in a bottle, because I’d like to think he’d also get the comfort, even if it wasn’t me.

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