Monday, December 18, 2017

Fortified breastmilk - is it still breastmilk? Should it be sold at a profit?

Click HERE for Baumslag's website and the full report.
These are some of the questions the esteemed Dr. Naomi Baumslag is asking. Along with colleagues Elisabeth Sterken and Glynnis Mileikowsky, Baumslag has released a brief report on the results of her survey on the sale of human milk in 33 countries, with data collected at the World Breastfeeding Conference in Johannesburg in December 2016.

Among the findings:

  • "... a pervasive lack of knowledge of the many issues around breastfeeding, Human Breast Milk (HBM) donation and commodification, and identified areas for education. 
  • less informed respondents requested more information and saw the benefits of being involved in the education of women so that they are not exploited and can better understand the need to help infants in need of donated HBM for their survival. 
  • most of the respondents felt that it was important to pay donor women if their milk was being sold at a profit by someone else, rather than donated. 
  • some respondents expressed the need to keep milk available for babies rather than for commercial purposes. 
  • cultural differences in attitudes to mothers selling HBM, but some field workers and researchers indicated that lactating women could use the cash for transport and to feed their families. 
  • many respondents felt that women undervalue their breastmilk and that HBM should not be sold.  ..."

Baumslag has a call for comments open - please visit her website to read the full results of the survey and for information on how to comment: Should human breast milk be for sale? 


George Kent said...

I would like to comment on Naomi Baumslag’s discussion of the question, “Should Human Breastmilk be Sold”? These comments are based on my article, “Extending the Reach of Human Milk Banking,” published in the current issue of the online journal, World Nutrition. It can be accessed at My article argues that human milk should be made more readily available for all infants who could benefit from it, and that cannot be accomplished if women are not paid for the milk they provide. This should be well-regulated.

In that article, I say:

“The plain human milk that is offered for sale should not be confused with the high-priced fortified human milk intended for infants who are ill and need special treatment in hospital settings. There are serious questions relating to the value of these fortified products in treating infants who are ill, such as possibly misleading claims about the benefits they can provide to critically ill infants. Exploitation by companies that produce those highly specialized products is not a sound basis blocking the provision of plain human milk to infants who would benefit from it.”

In general, I agree with Baumslag’s views, but a clear distinction should be made between the issues related to human milk banking in general and those related to fortification.

I don’t agree with the statement that fortified human milk is formula.

I agree that we should have more milk banks, not only for infant who are ill.

I don’t see any reason to insist that milk banks must be non-profit operations.

Making human milk available on a business-like basis creates the risk of various types of abuse, but it is not intrinsically abusive.

I agree that the sale of human milk should be well regulated.

George Kent

Unknown said...

I agree with much of what George has to say.
I have written on this topic at

I think the important thing is to accept that this is happening, and try to ensure that it serves to assist women's economic position and supports bresatfeeding rather than exploits them as producers or consumers and displaces breastfeeding. I think we need to focus on addressing the economic exploitation that makes selling milk the best option for some women, and prevent exploitation of women buying it, such as misleading advertising. More detail is in the conversation article but I think we should avoid knee jerk responses against it, not least because it is happening and will expand, unless women are shamed into sending it underground, and we all lose from that.