Sunday, October 28, 2012

Little Miss Milkbags

Would you sell your breast milk?

This thought never even crossed my mind until I saw a posting on Craigslist from a woman who wanted to unload some of the bottles and bags from her freezer. Talk about a renewable resource, and it's a limited opportunity - there are not too many women out there who are producing enough milk for their own baby plus others.

But - I am.

We have a deep-freeze and a kitchen freezer full of milk, along with a bin in the hospital's freezer, and I will continue pumping to maintain my milk supply for when Baby M comes home. We are starting to run out of space to store the "liquid gold" but I am leery of pumping and dumping - this stuff is truly valuable for babies and modern science can't replicate it.

I checked and it IS legal to sell breast milk in my state. Is it any different from "donating" plasma or eggs? Donors get paid in both of those situations; in the case of eggs, they can get paid quite handsomely. I think what I'm struggling with is that banks for both plasma and eggs are doing the paying; established breast milk banks are truly donation-based and mothers are not compensated financially. If you sell your breast milk you are dealing with an individual who for whatever reason cannot produce enough milk herself, and might be desperate to provide the benefits of human milk to her baby. It feels almost like I would be taking advantage of someone in that case.

Still, if I were to sell my milk, shouldn't I be compensated for supplies (breast pump rental, storage bags or bottles, labels) and time (15-20 minutes eight times a day adds up to several hours, not to mention that I'm losing sleep when pumping every three hours at night)? It is possible to donate it, where it tends to go for preemies whose mothers cannot provide milk for whatever reason, and that's an awfully noble cause, especially given the situation we are in now. But does it make more sense to give away something so valuable, or try to get compensation for it?

This isn't something that I'm seriously considering at this time, but check back when I have to start throwing food away because nothing more will fit in my freezer...

3 comments:

  1. Although human milk isn't the same as the used books and clothing I usually sell or donate, I find myself applying the same logic: If you're not going to use it, and it has value for someone else, why not give it away? That benefits other people and gives you more space. It shouldn't cost you anything, though -- so packaging and shipping costs should be covered by the recipient(s). Any payment above that is extra; while I wouldn't necessarily pay it as a buyer, I don't think it reflects morally on the seller.

    When we adopt, I'll be looking into sources of human milk for the baby -- both milk banks and more personal arrangements. I know that people make local connections for milk exchange between families; barter options could include housework or homemade meals instead of cash, and that could potentially be more valuable during the baby months!

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  2. I don't think I would sell mine, but I would certainly donate it!

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  3. I thought oh so briefly about selling my excess milk when I was pumping for my daughter, but I ended up donating, instead. You can find the MN chapter of "Human Milk for Human Babies" on facebook and donate through them, if it comes to that. I donated probably 1000 ounces of milk to three different mamas over the course of about six months. It was nice to be able to clear up room in the freezer and to help other babies out!

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Thanks for commenting!