Thursday, March 3, 2011

Breastmilk ice cream production halted

The other night, during a girl’s night out, I discussed this ice cream maker with my friends, all mothers and most, if not all, experienced breastfeeders. They were as shocked about the idea of breastmilk ice cream as others.

“I’ve tasted my breastmilk and it’s sweet, but it’s not something I’d want to drink a glass of,” one friend said.

Another friend admitted that despite nursing two children, she could never bring herself to try her milk.

I’ve tried only drops on my fingertips and it is sweet. In addition to being natural, “free-range” as the shop owner says, and with immunological properties, I think it’s a great thing for my kids. But I also have no desire to take a swig, or drink a glass.

I don’t think it gross though and blame my hesitance on my socialization. In the same way I was very hesitant about drinking mare’s milk in Kyrgyzstan, and couldn’t bring myself to take more than a few tiny sips, especially with the brown fat lumps floating in it, drinking breastmilk is strange to me because it’s unknown. I was even hesitant to consume the goat’s milk I got on sale the other day. I could take small sips, I could eat it atop oatmeal, but I couldn’t really chug a glass of it, just because I wasn’t used to it.

I doubt that adults consuming breastmilk in any quantities is even on the table, as the cost of production is too high. But I do wonder at our reaction to it. Sure, there may be some small risk of spreading disease. But with things like beetles and melamine recently found in formula, is the risk really any greater?

I don’t like the characterization of breastmilk as a potentially dirty “bodily fluid,” as though it’s on par with mucus or vaginal discharge. It is something our bodies make to feed and nourish our babies, not an unneeded substance that is discharged to keep our bodies clean. Yes, there is the possibility of spreading HIV or hepatitis. But most women should know if they are positive for these diseases. It’s possible, but not very likely, that they would extract milk for their babies, then give away their excess, if they thought it could do an infant harm.

I once gave River frozen breastmilk from another woman. It did feel a bit weird, but I thought it was better for him than formula and I appreciated her generosity. I knew she fed that same substance to her own babies. I think that breastmilk exchanges, such as Eats on Feets, offer a wonderful service. I just looked at my local group and saw a woman, whose two premature twins died in intensive care in December, offering her freezer full of pumped breastmilk to other babies. What a beautiful gesture, to allow another baby to be nourished with the food she lovingly made for her children.

This London ice cream shop owner is doing a great thing by recognizing breastmilk for what is it – a quality food source. Perhaps it’s not intended to make ice cream for adults, but why not? There are so many, many worse things we put into our bodies.

In the same way I had trouble drinking mare’s milk, or eating dog (even though I really dislike dogs), or even downing reconstituted powdered milk, I too struggle with recognizing breastmilk as a source of food. But I’d like to get over that. Is a cow or a goat or a sheep cleaner than I am or their milk of better quality than mine?

I don’t tend to be an overproducer, but should I wind up with extra, I’d definitely donate to someone on Eats with Feets. And if I should have enough at some point, I’m even considering making a batch of homemade ice cream for my children. Just for the heck of it.

This wikipedia page on human breast milk offers some interesting details.

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