Breast milk helps build a baby’s budding immune system, and the act of breastfeeding establishes emotional bonding. And, frankly, mammals are built for it. So why is there continually so much controversy surrounding the topic? Some women have blamed the sexualization of breasts for the pushback they receive when nursing their babies in public. Others have harshly judged and criticized mothers who opt for formula over breast milk. Even COVID-19 and COVID vaccinations have shone a spotlight on it: The virus will not be passed on to baby through breast milk, but antibodies from the vaccine will. Every few years, a new debate involving breast milk arises. These are some of the most notable.
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10 I Scream. You Scream. We All Scream About Breast Milk Ice Cream
In 2011, a London shop introduced ice cream containing human breast milk. The Icecreamists created “Baba Gaga” using the breast milk of more than a dozen women. The vanilla and lemon zest concoction cost about $22.50 per serving and sold out within days.
The Icecreamists recruited breast milk donors with an internet advertisement and said all milk “was screened [for viruses and contaminants] in line with hospital/blood donor requirements.” The store’s founder said, “It’s pure, it’s natural, it’s organic, and it’s free range—and if it’s good enough for our kids, it’s good enough to use in our ice cream.”
But Westminster Council officials were concerned that Baba Gaga might pose a health threat. “Selling foodstuffs made from another person’s bodily fluids can lead to viruses being passed on and, in this case, potentially hepatitis,” said one council member.
The Icecreamists called the council’s concerns “complete rubbish” and said “if the ice cream is not safe, then these mothers pose a serious risk to their babies.
In 2015, breastfeeding advocate Victoria Hiley teamed up with the Licktators to relaunch the product in honor of the forthcoming royal baby. “How delicious breast milk is, whatever your age,” Hiley said. Would you eat it?
9 Jury Duty Trumps Mother’s Desire to Breastfeed
A Hampshire woman may defer her jury service at Winchester Crown Court for 12 months, but she says that’s not long enough. Zoe Stacey asked to be excused from service while she breastfeeds her now two-month-old son, and she had hoped to do so for longer than one year.
The Jury Central Summoning Bureau rejected the request, and Stacey appealed, saying, “I do feel strongly about being able to breastfeed for as long as possible and not wanting to leave him for the next year. I think they need to show more compassion.” The appeal will be considered by a judge at Winchester Crown Court. HM Courts and Tribunals Service said, “Crown court practice is to defer new mums that are breastfeeding. We are investigating the facts of this case.”
8 Moms Utilize Facebook to Farm Out Surplus Breast Milk
The Eats on Feets campaign started on Facebook when a breastfeeding mother wanted to find a way to put her surplus milk to use. She teamed up with like-minded activists, and the movement spread to every continent, including Antarctica! It describes itself as a “world-wide network for those who have made the informed choice to share breast milk.”
Shell Walker Luttrell, a midwife from Phoenix, Arizona, crafted the original Facebook page in 2010. “Hey, why don’t we just become wet nurses,” she told her breastfeeding friends, “Instead of Meals on Wheels, we can call ourselves Eats on Feets.”
But the U.S. FDA explains that using “donor human milk” is risky business. “Risks for the baby include exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants, such as some illegal drugs to a limited number of prescription drugs, that might be in the human milk if the donor has not been adequately screened,” reads the FDA’s website. “In addition, if human milk is not handled and stored properly, it could, like any time of milk, become contaminated and unsafe to drink.”
The FDA prefers that those interested in breast milk sharing utilize the Human Milk Banking Association of North America as a good source of information and contact.
7 Celebrity Dads Import Breast Milk
Dad couples aren’t equipped to breastfeed, so what do they do when they believe “breast is best”? For celebrity couples like Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, it helps to be wealthy. In 2010, the parents welcomed twins via surrogate and worried when one baby exhibited fussiness from gastrointestinal problems. After experimenting with various formulas, they opted to source breast milk for her.
“You have to have breast milk shipped in,” Harris said in an interview. “If anyone is pumping, extra milk has to go to San Jose and then get pasteurized and then come back to you. I think it’s a racket!” The actor complained that even if his next-door neighbor wanted to donate milk, she’d have to jump through hoops. “If someone’s in Santa Monica, down the street, and wants to provide milk, it has to go on a plane to San Jose,” he explained. “And they charge a fortune—it costs more for breast milk than sushi!”
Sir Elton John and David Furnish did the same. Their son’s surrogate (and biological mother) pumped breast milk in the U.S. and sent it to the U.K. via Fed-Ex. Celeb couples can easily afford this luxury. But with most milk banks charging about $4 an ounce—that’s more than $100 a day for a hungry newborn—importing breast milk is not an option for the average parent.
6 Actress Donates Breast Milk to Drug-Addicted Infant
When Jenna Elfman’s first son was born, she found she didn’t know the first thing about how to breastfeed. “I had zero education about breastfeeding before giving birth to my first son, I didn’t know there was anything TO learn about breastfeeding,” she said. “I though you put the baby on the breast, and they sucked and that was it.”
When she was unable to get her own son to latch on, Elfman opted to feed him with formula. But the actress put her pumped breast milk to good use when a friend of a friend gave birth to a methamphetamine-addicted baby who was unable to keep down his formula. “Once a week, my friend would come over to get a supply,” the actress said. “The second the baby started on breast milk, he could hold it down. All of the rash symptoms on his body started going away. I literally kept him alive for several months.”
5 Police Officer Breastfeeds Another Woman’s Baby
In 2018, Officer Celeste Jaqueline Ayala was patrolling a children’s hospital in Berisso, Argentina when she heard the cries of a hungry baby. Ayala had recently become a mother herself and immediately recognized the baby’s need. She simply sat down on a chair outside the hospital ward and, in full police uniform, fed the infant. Hospital officials said that the baby was just removed from its mother and that’s why it had not been fed by its staff.
The officer’s partner photographed the moment and shared it on Facebook writing, “I want to make public this great gesture of love that you displayed today with this baby.” The post quickly went viral and was featured by news outlets across the globe. Amazingly, this happened on August 14, which in Argentina is “National Day of the Female Officer.”
Actress Salma Hayek made similar headlines while on a goodwill trip to Sierra Leone in 2009. The country has the highest infant mortality rate in the world—one in five children die before their fifth birthday—and malnutrition is a big factor. Doctors there told the actress that they would like to see mothers breastfeed for two years, but tradition makes doing so difficult. Most mothers stop after just a few months because of pressure from their husbands, who are forbidden to have sexual relations with a woman who is breastfeeding.
A video clip shows Hayek breastfeeding a hungry baby boy, who was born on the same day as her own 1-year-old daughter. The actress said she did so to diminish the stigma placed on women for breastfeeding—particularly, breastfeeding babies more than a few months old.
A blogger on EW.com called Hayek cool “because her left breast has now done more for humanity in a few minutes that I’ve done in roughly my life.”
4 Breast Milk Sets Off Explosives Alarm
In 2017, a Birtney Shawstad told security agents she was traveling with breast milk and was instructed to put the container in its own security bin for screening. The breast milk set off an alarm when it was tested for explosives. It was retested with the same results. Thinking that the bin was the problem Shawstad asked that the milk be screened in a different bin, but her request was denied. She was forced to dump the milk if she wanted to board the plane.
“I just started crying because I really didn’t know what to do,” the mother told reporters. “That was my son’s food.”
The TSA later apologized to the woman and said it would brief all Denver TSA officers on screening oversized liquids, including breast milk.
A few years earlier, Delta Air Lines came under fire for refusing to let a nursing mother board with her breast pump. Gate agents forced the woman to check her bag, rendering her unable to pump for more than eight hours.
The airline apologized and explained that the company does support the breastfeeding travelers. Delta fully supports a woman’s right to breastfeed on board Delta and Delta Connection aircraft and in Delta facilities. Breast pumps are allowed on board.”
3 Supermodel Thinks There Should Be a Law About Breastfeeding
Gisele Bundchen is an outspoken celebrity, and becoming a mother did nothing to quell her abrasiveness. The supermodel (and wife of pro quarterback Tom Brady) infuriated women with comments made to Harper’s Bazaar in 2010.
When asked how she so quickly regained her million-dollar pre-baby figure, Bundchen said, “I think breastfeeding really helped. Some people here think they don’t have to breastfeed, and I think, ‘Are you going to give chemical food to your child, when they are so little?’ There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”
The Victoria’s Secret model later walked back on her bold remarks, expressing regret that her statement sounded so “black and white.”
2 Festival Goer Sprays Breast Milk Into Crowd
Just when you thought you’d seen it all. At the 2019 DirtyBird Campout in Southern California, an attractive blonde donning a one-piece swimsuit, ballcap, sunglasses, and red boots blends in with the rest of the 50,000 attendees. That is, until she whipped out her breasts and began spraying milk into the crowd. The multitasker twerked and sprayed simultaneously, while a fellow festival-goer squats down to capture the milky shower in her open mouth.
1 Mother Breastfeeds Teenaged Son
Nicole Mullen is a big advocate for breastfeeding older children. And it appears that she’s out to lead by example! The unconventional mother was unbothered by stunned onlookers while she nursed her 13-year-old son while they waited in line for a movie. When the ticket clerk shouted that the pair needed to stop, she replied, “I am a mother, and I have every right to feed my child in public.”
Or perhaps the woman is just looking for publicity with shock value: Mullen claims she derives sexual pleasure from her son’s facial hair—yeah!
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About The Author: Mary Fetzer is a freelance copywriter, editor, and content strategist from Central Pennsylvania.