Inside the underground breast milk market

With three kids ages 2 to 9, a part-time job and the courses she takes at a group school, Brittney Duenas does numerous juggling.

Even so, the Marysville, Calif., nursing mother units apart as many as 4 hours a day to pump breast milk.

On common, a child takes between 25 and 35 ounces a day, and what her youngest, still-nursing youngster doesn’t want, Duenas sells.

“It takes me 30 minutes to an hour to pump, every time,” the 30-year-old tells The Publish. “I get about 85 ounces per day.”

These further ounces don’t go to waste. By means of Fb, Duenas sells or donates her ample provide to households throughout the nation. Those that reside close by meet her at Goal or Walmart parking tons. Some obtain her surplus milk in frozen luggage packed in dry ice and shipped out from Duenas’ native FedEx, for a mean of 60 cents an oz, plus the price of transport.

That covers provides and the meals she wants as a nursing mom, Duenas says, who will regulate her worth for bulk orders.

“I am going by way of meals like loopy,” says Duenas, who’s married to a graduate scholar whom she says is totally supportive. “It provides up.”

Every couple weeks, Brittney Duenas ships her breast milk — packed with dry ice — via FedEx to needy families.
Each couple weeks, Brittney Duenas ships her breast milk — filled with dry ice — through FedEx to needy households.Micah Albert

She says she’s both donated or bought about 32,000 ounces of breast milk previously two years — burning by way of six pumps within the course of.

It’s value it, says Duenas, who says she’s donated her milk to greater than 30 households. “To see and to assist different infants, and to see them develop and hit their milestones off one thing my physique produces is past superb,” she says.

It will also be worthwhile.

There’s been a skyrocketing underground economic system for breast milk, the place 5-ounce luggage go for about 5 bucks — aided, partly, by the convenience of connecting through Fb.

“[Milk sharing] has been round because the starting of time, however the Web absolutely makes it a unique ballgame,” says Naomi Bar-Yam, the manager director of Moms’ Milk Financial institution Northeast, a nonprofit devoted to offering pasteurized human milk to medically at-risk infants. The value of this “liquid gold” is decided by a mom’s weight loss plan, with dairy-, caffeine- and gluten-free milk fetching increased charges.

Then once more, some dad and mom are determined for any breast milk they’ll discover.

Hours after Claybourne Elder’s son, Bo, was born through surrogate in Fresno, Calif., Elder and his husband, Eric Rosen, realized the child wasn’t taking properly to components.

“We discovered in a short time that first evening that he’s lactose illiberal,” recollects Elder, an actor now residing in New York, the place he’s at the moment an understudy in “Torch Music” on Broadway. “The components was making him sick.”

Elder shortly joined a Fresno-area breast milk sharing group on Fb, and posted an image of his new household with a name for assist.

“I received, like, 1,000,000 responses over the following 24 hours,” he says. He quickly related with a nursing mom wanting to donate, and organized to satisfy her within the parking zone of a liquor retailer. “It was 11 o’clock at evening. It gave the impression of a dialog from a hook-up app, however for contraband person-milk.

“She jumped out of her automobile and had somewhat cooler with 5 or 6 luggage of breast milk with ice packs for me,” says Elder.

“It was stunning, frankly,” he says. “We mentioned goodbye, I by no means heard from her once more, I do not know who she is. I took it again, and Bo lapped it up.” Elder drove round Fresno choosing up small donations of milk from no fewer than 10 girls for child Bo, now 16 months, who subsisted on donated milk for six months earlier than transitioning to components and solids.

Eric Rosen (left) and Claybourne Elder at home with their 16-month-old son, Bo, who is lactose intolerant.
Eric Rosen (left) and Claybourne Elder at house with their 16-month-old son, Bo, who’s lactose illiberal.Tamara Beckwith/NY Publish

The micro-economy is usually a godsend for determined dad and mom, however Bar-Yam has critical reservations.

“As soon as cash adjustments fingers, there are incentives to chop corners,” she says. Though it’s technically authorized to promote breast milk, the alternate is nearly unregulated, and sellers could also be responsible for fraud or worse in the event that they promote diluted breast milk, or knowingly promote milk contaminated with illnesses like HIV or HPV, which might be transferred to a child.

“It’s a completely trust-based system,” says Duenas. “I’m utterly open about my medical historical past. Something you’ll be able to consider, I’ve been examined for.”

Even so, milk offers sometimes go bitter. Duenas says one buyer demanded a refund, which she declined to provide.

“Apparently her child had a dairy intolerance, and he or she blamed it on me that her child was sick,” says Duenas, who advertises herself as alcohol- and tobacco-free, however does indulge day by day in caffeine and dairy. “I advised her I can’t reuse or re-donate the milk.”

Bar-Yam says there are even graver risks for these kids consuming a stranger’s milk.

“The query turns into what danger dad and mom are prepared to tackle this,” she says. “Is it essential sufficient that they’re prepared to take the prospect that the mother that’s pumping the milk has syphilis, in all probability unbeknownst to her?”

The reply, for a lot of dad and mom who ardently consider “breast is finest,” appears to be sure. Julie Garcia, 45, of Morgan Hill, Calif., had no bother nursing her daughter, now 5, however bumped into points together with her son Jace, who was born about six weeks untimely, with respiratory points and a tongue-tie, which makes it laborious for a child to nurse from a nipple.

“He had bother latching, so we began off with a battle from Day 1,” says Garcia. “What I used to be pumping was not sufficient to maintain him . . . there needed to be some form of intervention.”

‘You need to belief the mom that’s donating to you.’

After consulting together with her pediatrician, who gave the inexperienced mild, Garcia turned to Fb, the place she discovered Duenas.

“You need to belief the mom that’s donating to you. Brittney provides full lab work, her HIV standing, her hepatitis standing,” Garcia says. “She is one who makes you’re feeling very comfy.” To date, Garcia’s paid $300 for 600 ounces of milk that Duenas ships to her, frozen.

“My son has thrived on it,” Garcia says. “I’m so glad I made that call.”

She’s additionally getting a discount: At milk banks, an oz of milk is bought for 3 . “Our processes are modeled after blood banking,” says Bar-Yam. Moms’ Milk Financial institution requires interview screening, well being questionnaires, consent kinds and permission from donors’ medical doctors, partly as a result of the middle is designed to cater towards untimely and fragile infants. All breast milk undergoes testing and pasteurization, which strips it of a few of its antibodies and vitamins.

For these on a finances, word-of-mouth moist nursing could also be the most suitable choice — particularly when the milk’s saved with love. “We had somewhat stockpile of breast milk left in our freezer after Bo was carried out,” says Elder, who made certain all of the milk was put to make use of. “We handed it onto one other household — someone [was able to] profit.”

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