Now we’ve seen everything. Human breast milk is the latest item to pop up for sale over the internet, according to a report this week in the Beijing Morning Post.
There are currently no laws or regulations forbidding the sale of breast milk in China, but buying untested breast milk isn’t recommended for safety reasons. “In the absence of official regulation, consumers buy at their own risk,” a local maternity hospital employee was quoted as saying.
A simple search for the keyword “breast milk for sale” generates dozens of pages of results. A 150-200 ml bag of breast milk is commonly sold for between RMB 20 and RMB 35.
On the forum of website tiexue.com, one mother was seeking buyers for her own breast milk. “I can produce about 1,500ml of breast milk per day, but my baby only needs half of the amount,” she wrote.
According to a report from hlj.people.com, some mothers can easily sell more than 100 bottles of breast milk per month. This would net them about RMB 3,000 worth of income.
Although there are quite a few buyers in this niche market, there are concerns over whether the milk harbors infectious diseases or has been contaminated during bottling or transportation.
The biggest concern is HIV-infected breast milk. According to various studies, HIV is transmittable via breastfeeding, depending on factors such as the viral load in the milk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that “breastfeeding is not advisable if the mother has been infected with HIV.”
Since potential buyers generally have no idea of the sellers’ background, it’s ill-advised to buy breast milk over the Internet. The news has also provoked a debate on the moral implications of such a transaction. Breastfeeding is widely-regarded as an intimate interaction between a mother and her baby, and many Chinese netizens expressed their moral objection to selling breast milk.
Still, some netizens, especially some mothers who couldn’t produce enough breast milk on their own, felt the market should simply be regulated. A netizen nicknamed “Irish Coffee Luna” commented, “I feel so sad for the babies who don’t have breast milk to drink. I’d be more than happy and honored to provide milk for other babies, but I don’t think I’d sell it online.”
Some netizens cited the human milk banking systems in North America and Europe as a model, in which excess breast milk can be donated under strict protocols and given to babies in need (including premature infants in the NICU departments of hospitals).
For more information on breast milk and breastfeeding, check the CDC’s website.