Black-Market Breast Milk

Australian mothers pay up to $1,000 for it on the Internet due to the country’s shortage of breast-milk banks, the Courier Mail reports. Legitimate banks in hospitals are difficult to set up, according to the Courier Mail, because inconsistent legislation in different Australian states classifies breast milk as either human tissue, bodily fluid, or food, each with its own guidelines. [%comments]


Well certainly our government will manage health care issues differently.


If you are somehow trying to make a shortage of breast milk into a display of the evils of universal health care, you've got a one track mind.
The point of the blurb is related to SuperFreakonomics. The part about not being able to trade human tissue and repugnance to trading human body resources.

Luke P

"There's gold in them thar hills!"

Nicolas A. Barriga

There are tons of high quality powdered breast milk substitutes. Why take the trouble of having breast milk banks?


Breast may be best, but unless your wee mite is alergic to formula - who in thier right mind would pay $1000 for a litre of breast milk?

Whatever small advantage this gives must be outweighed by the inherent risks of buying an unregulated product.

I believe the way breastfeeding is promoted has a lot to do with this attitude - from my experience it is close to scaremongering. We need to have less 'sexed up' reports on health issues - particularly for new mums and mums to be.

Dominik Stroukal

2Nicolas - Because someone wants it more? This is the power of free markets.. in another words, if i were a central planner, i will definitely forget to plan this :)


Thanks for the laugh, Luke P! That's the funniest comment I've ever seen on this blog.


Just a few points to ponder.
1. Antibodies found in breast milk are not found in powdered substitutes.
2. While "Breast is Best" campaigns may be classified as scaremongering, someone willing to pay $1000 for breast milk is just foolish.
3. As a bodily fluid there is a tremendous risk of disease or other contamination issues, and therefore should be managed/inspected when sold or traded.
4. It is unfortunate that Aussie states cannot come to a consensus on how to manage this.
5. I'd like to see some statistics on just how many geniuses paid $1000 for breast milk. I am guessing, it will be a very very small pool.


the real absurdity would be if IV antibodies are cheaper than $1000!?


Breast milk, $1000.

Going to sleep at night knowing you are the best mommy on the whole planet and other mommies just don't love their babies like you do, priceless.


Reality check, for a moment. Breast milk banks exist for circumstances where there is a dire need. The whole breast feeding versus formula debate is really a different topic. When babies are born prematurely or with other health problems, the availability of donated milk in breast milk banks can mean the difference between life and death. In such a circumstance, it is easy to see why some parents would be willing to pay up to $1000 per liter. I'm not a neonatologist or doctor of any sort, but a liter of breast milk ought to be able to feed a preemie for a long time, especially one that is also on an IV. Weeks, probably.


By the way, by comparison, Tylenol Infant Drops, cost approximately $265 per liter at your local drug store.


Since the HIV virus can be contracted through breast milk, I would think the risk/benefits ratio of paying $1000/liter for milk to be rather poor. Wouldn't it be a lot safer to invest in high-quality formula?

Phil H

Well, let's read the story and see if there are any facts to be had.

The story states that unnamed people *asked* an unnamed mother for AU$1000/litre in response to an online ad. One online ad; one response. There was no mention that anyone actually paid that much, or that the sellers sold any for that much, or whether either the request or the offer were genuine. No participants were named, which makes the whole story stink to high heaven.

In other words, nothing happened that was worthy of reporting.

And the Brisbane Courier-Mail? Not one of the nation's better papers.


We don't need more milk banks: we need more wet nurses.


I live in Australia and have never heard of this so I'm inclined to agree with Phil H. But I try and ignore TV and print media in leiu of more reliable sources of information so that could be why.


The Courier Mail? Oh dear. One of the Murdoch papers- and not a particularly good one.


Hear, hear, Phil.

When you see the words Courier Mail, you stop reading straight away. Thanks Rupert, for yet another stellar publication.

Stathis K.

Who guarantees the quality of the breast milk provided in the black markets? And again it seems legislation plays an inconvenient role instead of a securing one.


We also lack milk banks in Israel (due to inadequate legislation). However, in a small country like Israel, there is still a general amount of trust between people, even if they're strangers. Our solution to the extra milk we had frozen was to look for someone in need on a "new parents" Internet forum. We found posts (some quite desperate) from people with newborns who needed milk because the baby had an allergy to formula and the mother wasn't producing enough. We posted about the availability of our milk and within 30 minutes, someone was on the way to pick it up. Problem solved, someone in need helped.

I'm also rather suspicious / skeptical that Australian mothers trust the black-market milk--there's such an incentive to manipulate the system.