Sunday, November 14, 2010

The market for mothers' milk

The main consumers of human breast milk are infants, but here's a story that caught my eye:
A Manhattan chef recently began serving cheese made from his nursing wife’s milk. Legendary critic Gael Greene samples the now-banned fromage.

"It’s the unexpected texture that’s so off-putting. Strangely soft, bouncy, like panna cotta."

Aside from some articles that Steve Leider pointed out to me, which are now several years old, I don't find much online about the market for mothers' milk. But in 2007, it apparently looked like the market for wet nurses might be making a comeback.

Outsourcing Breast Milk:
"...wet-nursing (hiring a woman to breast-feed your baby), which most of the Western world abandoned in the 19th century, is making a minor comeback among young moms. So is cross-nursing, in which mothers breast-feed one another's babies. Both reflect several cultural trends: more U.S. babies--upwards of 70%--are breast-fed than at any time in at least 50 years, more women work outside the home, and more young women undergo breast surgery. Advocates argue that milk sharing lets women be good moms while fulfilling other goals. Says Natalia Chang, 29, who has cross-nursed with her San Jose, Calif., neighbor: Breast milk is "a communal commodity around here."

"Not everyone is comfortable with this freewheeling baby feeding. Milk banks, which sell bottled breast milk, already make some people squirm; the idea of physically breast-feeding a child not your own evokes even deeper taboos. Rhonda Shaw, a sociologist who studies shared nursing in New Zealand, where the trend is also up, says many confuse "adult meanings of eroticism with breast feeding ... Sometimes people associate a woman breast-feeding another woman's baby with pedophilia." Even the pro-nursing group La Leche League has concerns about milk sharing because, in addition to helpful immunities and antibodies, viruses can be passed through breast milk."
"Even if you accept that cross-nursing is for the collective good, wet nurses magnify the discomfort that many people already feel about the wealthy employing less advantaged women to do domestic duties. That's why the few women who hire wet nurses--mostly because they have adopted, have had breast implants or reductions or have high-powered careers--keep it a secret, for fear of being judged bad mothers. Still, Robert Feinstock, who owns a Los Angeles--based agency that supplies wet nurses nationwide, says demand has steadily risen in the past four years, even though the standard fee of $1,000 a week is more than the average nanny gets.
"Brenda (whose last name is withheld to protect her clients' privacy), 42, has wet-nursed 10 babies in the past seven years partly to help send her own two kids to college. She has mulled over the social implications of her work--because she's black and eight of the families she has worked for are white. "A friend asked me, Don't you feel like you're the mammy?" she recalls. But she finds her job fulfilling, and sometimes amusing. "If you're someplace with the family and the baby starts to pull at your blouse or put his hand in your bra, that can be embarrassing," she says, laughing."

No comments: