Breast Milk for Sale to Adults?
July 14, 2010 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of anyone who sells their breast milk for consumption by adults?

I'm a non-fiction writer and I'm interested in doing a story about what it's like to BE food. The best way I can think of to find out is to ask someone, but the only person I can think of who would count would be someone who sells their breast milk (given that animals can't talk). If they're selling it for babies, that seems more like medicine and less like a commodity. Has anyone ever heard of someone selling breast milk to adults? It's pretty underground if it exists.

I'm also open to other ideas of how I could interview someone who is, literally, food.
posted by rzperllian to Grab Bag (25 answers total)
Breast milk cheese:
posted by verbyournouns at 11:33 AM on July 14, 2010

The short answer is: sort of.
posted by The Bellman at 11:33 AM on July 14, 2010

Self-styled vampires might be able to point you to people with some insight on this. They're probably more common than breast-milk drinkers and suppliers.
posted by alms at 11:33 AM on July 14, 2010

Well, I guess you could ask Valentine Michael Smith.

But no, I've never heard of anyone selling their breast milk. Um, I guess if you really We're all of us potentially food, given the right context. Perhaps you could ask more hypothetical questions, like "how would feel about being killed and eaten in the event of a catastrophic Act of God? How would you prefer to be cooked/served/eaten?"
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:35 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe those women who lie naked with sushi all over their body that guys eat of off? Not sure how you'd find one, but that is kinda close to being food.
posted by Grither at 11:36 AM on July 14, 2010

Nice idea, Douglas Adams had a decent stab at it of couse with the Dish of the Day; "May I recommend my liver sir? I'm been force feeding myself for weeks. I'll just nip off and shoot myself, don't worry, I'll be very humane..."
posted by runincircles at 11:40 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Grither, I had "body sushi" at a bachelor party earlier this year.

The term for the women who did it was "stripper". Basically, it was at a high-end strip club with a nice kitchen and sushi chef.

Definitely something to cross off my bucket list though.
posted by Oktober at 11:45 AM on July 14, 2010

I Am Not A Lactating Woman (and I'm also someone who hates acronyms), but think this is the kind of thing you might have better luck with on, say, Craigslist. If you're comfortable doing so, actually make a post offering to buy breastmilk. I'll leave it up to you how (or if) you'll verify that it's actually human milk.

I have the ethics of a whore, so I know that if I had the ability to lactate, and it wasn't too much trouble, I would gladly sell you some of my milk -- for a pretty reasonable price. If I'm like that, chances other are, too. And some of those others might actually be able to produce milk.

Oh, and you might want to google "adult breastfeeding." There are forums where people discuss their experiences feeding each other, usually without commerce being involved.

Having given that advice, I'll add that I don't think you'll learn what you want to learn from this. I can't prove this, but I suspect most people don't feel like something is part of them once it has come out of their bodies. There are some things that come out of my body, and I don't think of them as being me (or part of me). If someone ate those things, I'd be massively grossed out, but I wouldn't feel even remotely like food. I wouldn't even feel like food if someone went to the blood bank after I'd donated and drank my blood.

The only way I'd feel like food is if someone, say, started biting my finger off.

How about using your imagination? I am a writer, and as such, I am a big fan of research and authenticity. But I think this is a case where no one (or very, very few people) are ever going to accuse you of not being accurate. ("No, that's not what being food feels like!")
posted by grumblebee at 11:46 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys, good ideas so far. That one incident in NY got a lot of attention, but it seems like it was just a one-time deal. Maybe I'll track them down anyway. But if so many people were into it then, shouldn't it be happening somewhere more regularly?

alms, can you tell me more about self-styled vampires? Do they actually eat blood? Never heard of it, but that could be a good line of inquiry.
posted by rzperllian at 11:48 AM on July 14, 2010

I would have thought this would be obvious, but, umm, talk to a woman who has nursed a child. I'd be shocked if you couldn't at least a hundred of them. In like 30 minutes. Hell, there are more than that in my office right now.

Turns out this is a good thing for you, because the sort of transaction you asked about is largely illegal in the US. I still don't know how the New York chef mentioned in the links above got away with it, because the FDA would have a cow, if you'll pardon the expression.

Basically, as soon as you want to charge money for something people are going to eat, it needs to comply with federal food regulations. Human products and by products are essentially categorically excluded. You can hire a wet nurse, but I don't think you can pay that wet nurse to use a pump and just give you the milk.

I'm not saying it's rational, but it's the law, as far as I can tell. "Milk" is defined in a number of places in the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 133.3, among others) as "lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows, which may be clarified and may be adjusted by separating part of the fat therefrom".

The CFR never fails to be 1) amazing, 2) boring, and 2) amazingly boring.

Tl;dr: talk to a mom, cause if anyone actually does what you're asking about on a regular basis, they really ought to be smarter than to advertise that fact online.
posted by valkyryn at 11:52 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Good points, grumble bee, but some thoughts:

1) I like the challenge of not making it up. It's kind of the point. I wouldn't do it as well as Adams anyway.
2) From what I heard, pumping breast milk is actually a lot of work. The things that come out of your body probably come out without much thought on your part. I have a guess it probably feels different to explicitly spend time using your body to create food, then participating in commerce about it.
3) The adult breastfeeding world seems to be about a lot of somewhat weird and fascinating things, but eating is kind of beside the point, so I've decided it doesn't quite count either.
posted by rzperllian at 11:53 AM on July 14, 2010

*Office building. Damn, that sounded creepy.
posted by valkyryn at 11:53 AM on July 14, 2010

ack, can't keep up with answers! valkyryn, you make good points too. I obviously thought of talking to moms, but for various reasons decided to investigate other, less traditional lines of inquiry.

I think you're right about the legal stuff...But I have so much trouble believing it's not just out there somewhere! I'm casting my net wide....In case anyone knows of it from first-hand encounters or the like.
posted by rzperllian at 11:57 AM on July 14, 2010

i'm thinking that 99% of breast milk sold/traded for adults is sex/fetish based so it would fall under your #3 point above, no?

and, yes, vampires do drink blood - you're looking for pre-twilight vamps, the kind that hang out at goth clubs. i know this sort of trading was fairly common at the church in dallas, tx 10 years ago.
posted by nadawi at 12:00 PM on July 14, 2010

Human-milk banks sometimes make milk available for consumption by adults (people who are undergoing chemo sometimes drink milk). But I don't think the banks buy the milk from women, I think it's donated. Is the sale issue key to your story?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:00 PM on July 14, 2010

I've only ever heard of donation, not sale, but as others have suggested, there's not much you can't buy or sell if you post an ad online.

As a breastfeeding mom, I can tell you that I definitely think of myself as a link in the food chain that leads to my son, and that makes me more aware and appreciative of what I eat. Not sure what other kind of detail you're looking for, but if you ask this again next week with a different slant I'm sure you'll get lots of useful responses.
posted by tetralix at 12:16 PM on July 14, 2010

Yeah, seems weird (and maybe kind of sexist) to ignore breastfeeding, the obvious human-as-food experience.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:19 PM on July 14, 2010

It's illegal to sell breastmilk, at least without a crazy amount of regulations, or I wouldn't be so poor. Even breastmilk for consumption by other babies is by donation, not a pay situation.

But just speaking from having been a food provider for 16 months and just quitting recently (but starting up again in 5 months), it's kinda weird. Cool, but restrictive (can't drink too much, can't take certain drugs).
posted by kpht at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2010

From what I heard, pumping breast milk is actually a lot of work
Not really. My pumping routine was: put thingies on breasts, turn on machine, read magazine. Fixing a bowl of corn flakes is more work.

I really, really liked breastfeeding. It helped me feel very close to my daughter and it was a very positive, nurturing, bonding experience (overall) for both of us. But I think this is materially different from being food. Nursing is a shared experience. In general, "food" doesn't get to share the experience of being eaten.

Is it possible that what you are looking for ("being food") is just not really a part of the human experience? Even cannibalism to me seems less about "food" (as sustenance) and more about violence and domination.
posted by jeoc at 12:43 PM on July 14, 2010

Is it possible that what you are looking for ("being food") is just not really a part of the human experience?

I was wondering that, too. Above, I quipped that I would only feel like food if someone was biting off my finger, but even as I wrote it, it sort of felt wrong. If someone was biting my finger, I would feel OOOOWWWWW! and I'd think, "You motherfucker," but I seriously doubt that even a small part of my brain would think, "Jesus Christ! I'm food!"

I don't think I'd even feel that way afterwards, thinking back on the event. ("Jesus Christ! I WAS food.") In fact, I'd think, "Why the fuck was that guy eating me? I'm NOT food."

I don't think there's anything that could make me feel like food, because "being food" is not part of my identity. In fact, my identity is explicitly being "not food."

"What does it feel like to be an animal?" is a similar question. All of us are animals, but I bet very few people (if any) feel like they are animals. This is not logical, but I imagine most people feel like animals are them and we are us. I have a hard time even thinking of the steak on my plate as having anything to do with an animal. (This would, I imagine, change if I was a hunter. Or would it? Do hunters put the fork to their mouth and think -- think on a gut level -- this is a bit of the deer I saw walking around in the woods earlier?)

Food is just in a different mental category than "me." At least for me.
posted by grumblebee at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Having just read the last two posts here I've wound up thinking about it far more than I planned...

Given grumblebee's comment about thinking more about pain than about being food,what about people who've been attacked by animals higher in the food chain than us, perhaps? I know it's most likely you'd just feel like you were attacked, but if I'd been attacked by a shark I might feel like it had considered me to be food and that that was weird. Possibly even more so with a croc, seeing as they seem to attack humans more to eat them than just as an attack. Possibly...
posted by opsin at 1:40 PM on July 14, 2010

I once saw a (of course possibly fake) ad on Craigslist advertising a room in a "Vegan Co-op" to a lactating mother in exchange for breast milk. The idea was that a vegan could have breast milk if the mother was ok with it, I guess.

I dunno. If it is in exchange for shelter, it still feels more like coercion to me than freewill.
posted by freezer cake at 2:58 PM on July 14, 2010

If someone was biting my finger, I would feel OOOOWWWWW! and I'd think, "You motherfucker," but I seriously doubt that even a small part of my brain would think, "Jesus Christ! I'm food!"

I'm reminded of the song "I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor."

Anyone who's ever been bitten by a bloodsucking insect has been food. (Razzin' frazzin' nasty little critters gettim off me RAR.'s bug season, yeah.)

In FL, occasionally people lose limbs to alligators. You can google "alligator bites [hand|foot|arm|leg]" and probably find a few people who literally were food and lived to talk about it. Probably you could accomplish the same thing with sharks, although there are fewer shark attacks than gator bites.
posted by galadriel at 3:10 PM on July 14, 2010

Have you spoken with anyone who has eaten human placenta/been the placenta donor? The cultural taboos surrounding it in the United States tie in nicely with the idea that "food is just in a different category than 'me.'"
posted by corey flood at 3:47 PM on July 14, 2010

Seconding the placenta idea. At least among my cohort, a few new parents have consumed the placenta in some form. You could probably find someone willing to talk to you about placenta eating / preserving. The placenta is an organ, created by the mother for the child's support, and is probably the closest the mother could get to being food.

Note to say that I didn't eat placenta.
posted by seventyfour at 8:38 AM on July 15, 2010

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