“I had a college friend whose mom was a wet nurse…and that is how it all began,” says Amy.
In recent years, the age-old concept of wet nursing appears to have re-emerged … in the form of Internet ads. “I have three dads who buy milk. One lost his wife during child birth; he is who I donate to. One is a stay-at-home dad so he does the finding of the milk for his son. And the other is just more computer-savvy than his wife.” Amy adds, “I think I have one girl customer.”
A mother of two and full-time flooring company manager, Amy says she sells her breast milk online to supplement her income because she doesn’t have time for another job. “I make anywhere from nothing a week to around $300 a week. It goes in spurts. But the extra money is very helpful,” She adds.
Kristine sells 50-60 ounces of her milk weekly to a local family. She meets the family in a parking lot where they buy their milk for a dollar per ounce. While Kristine’s breast milk supply is ample, her bank account is a different story. She was already living month-to-month when she learned of her unplanned pregnancy. “My finances were pretty tight, and I was on unpaid maternity leave, so I was looking at different areas that I could make money while staying at home with my baby.”
While the advantages of breast milk over formula are without question, there are also risks that go along with getting human milk online.
Sites like OnlyTheBreast.com set guidelines, but the site’s designer, Glenn Snow, says it’s ultimately up to the seller to follow the recommendations and the buyer to check the facts. “We think it’s a good idea to ask for medical history. We also suggest moms to go and get pre-qualified at a breast milk bank, which means they make you jump through all these hoops and we suggest those are the best moms to buy milk from for their babies,” says Snow, who designed the website for his wife Chelly, a breast-feeding mom.
For those who are worried about the risks involved with receiving milk from unscreened online providers, another option is human milk banks. One of the better-known establishments that conduct breast milk sales is Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). HMBANA is a service established for the purpose of collecting, screening, processing and distributing donated human milk, usually to mothers that are unable to breast feed. In 2008, over 1.4 million ounces of donated breast milk was distributed by HMBANA.
Which ever way you choose to venture in the human milk market, both options are worth examining. “Breast milk is amazing stuff, and when you take that and pasteurize it, which is super-heating it, it’s essentially no longer as nutritious as it was before. So there’s a major catch-22 there. To get the safety you have to kill all the life in it,” says Snow.