Well Being

A Site to Buy and Sell Human Breast Milk

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What should women do if they have extra expressed breast milk? One option is to donate the milk to a non-profit milk bank of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. If that is not possible, some women choose to take advantage of the MilkShare site for informal milk donation.

Image by Bartek Ambrozik

But what about making some money from the milk? Women have been trying to sell their breast milk on Craigslist and eBay. So it was bound to happen eventually. A site has been set up to buy and sell breast milk. Mothers can list their ads to sell their milk, and buyers — be they other mothers or men interested in the milk for medical reasons or personal enjoyment — can browse the ads or post want ads themselves.

What do you think of such a site? Should women be allowed to sell their milk? Should the sale of human milk be illegal or permitted and regulated by law? The sale of breast milk raises many ethical and legal questions:

~ Will the ability of a mother to sell her milk lead her to wean early (or not give her milk to her baby at all) in order to make money?
~ Will there be a disparity in the mothers who sell their milk? Will the underprivileged be driven to sell their milk, and the babies of the poor (the ones who arguably need the protection and nutrition of human milk the most) be deprived of milk?
~ Do we as society have an obligation to protect mothers and babies from exploitation? Is it exploitation?
~ What about mothers who have plenty of milk to both feed their babies and sell the milk? Should they be free to sell it without regulation?
~ Given that medications, illegal substances, and certain diseases can be transmitted by human milk, what is the responsibility of the buyer to certify the quality of the milk, and what is the responsibility of the buyer? Is it buyer beware, or could mothers be held responsible for selling milk that harms the buyer?
~ How does the donation or sale of human milk relate to the donation or sale of human blood, tissue or organs?
~ If the sale of breast milk should be permitted but regulated, should it be regulated on a state and/or federal level? California, New York, and Texas have laws the pertain to the collection, processing, distribution and use of human milk.
~ Why should a company such as Prolacta be allowed to profit from the sale of donated milk, but the mothers themselves not be allowed to profit?

I am not sure I know the answers to these questions, and I am interested in reading your comments. What do you think about the ethical and legal questions raised by the selling and buying of human breast milk?