Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Donor Milk Dilemma

Dripping Milk 4
Okay, hard truth first: Formula is not as good as human milk. Formula is rated fourth in the hierarchy for infant nutrition (Mom's milk, mom's pumped milk, milk from another mama, then formula) and should only be used for babies with galactosemia or any other reason that they cannot consume human milk.

Human milk is the standard of human infant and toddler nutrition. Formula is inferior, plain and simple. It has its place and can be useful, but it should not be the first option when breastfeeding/pumping cannot happen. If you cannot breastfeed, it does not follow that you must use formula.

Donor milk should be the first option after mother cannot provide the milk that baby needs. However, if you say that to most women, what is their first reaction?

"Eww! No way!"

Why? Why do we distrust other women so much as to assume that their milk is inferior to formula, when it was perfect for their own children? The risk of disease from donor milk is lower than the risk of formula contamination. But many women cannot be persuaded of this. Why?

"Women are dirty. Women's bodies are dirty."

This is a prevailing attitude in our society. It is illegal to show breasts outside your home, though men can show their nipples legally. It comes from puritanical thinking and the old "Eve committed original sin" attitude. Which is just plain ridiculous. It's the same reason that women think that childbirth must be a painful ordeal, despite the absence of pain in uncomplicated births in cultures that have not been exposed to this concept.

Women are adversarial to other women. They don't trust them. So, regardless of the fact that women go through the same STD checks in pregnancy and that donors are routinely screened, women refuse to accept that another woman's milk is clean. Sometimes, they cannot accept that another woman can do something that they cannot. Their competitive nature causes them to become resentful and aggressively reject that which they feel they cannot do.

Some women are so misogynistic that the thought of anything coming from a breast is 'dirty' -- even if it's their own! This is usually an attitude held by only the most immature mothers, though.

Many women tout themselves as 'victims' because they either made a choice not to breastfeed or were unable to, for whatever reason. But the real victims here are the babies, being given an inferior food substitute because of a cultural stigma against women's bodies.

Yes, some of it is the backlash of the medical germaphobe: 'all bodily fluids are infected with an unknown number of virulent diseases just waiting to pounce.' But even with that, there is still an imbalance, as formula is actually more bacteria-laden and research shows a greater risk of infection from it.
Refill for Will
I'm not saying women shouldn't have a choice. I am saying that formula should not be the first choice to follow. I'm saying that the cultural stigma against women needs to end. The hidden misogyny in our society needs to end. Only then can there be increased access to a variety of donor milk so that all babies who can safely consume human milk have access to it.


  1. Perfectly stated! I must share this. I don't know how you do it, but everything you write is gold, lady.

  2. Thank you, Melissa, that's so kind!


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