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Ask a nursing mother and she'll likely tell you how amazing her breast milk is. Chock-full of vitamins, nutrients, protein, hormones and immune-supporting components, breast milk is a perfectly balanced meal for an infant, in a ready-to-drink formula. But in some circles, it isn't just babies getting the "good stuff." In some circles, male athletes are drinking it too.
Citing the energy-boosting and health qualities, some male athletes are reportedly turning to breast milk for meal supplementation. They are buying their milk from donor moms, who they find on donor sites, through word of mouth or on sites like Craigslist. In some cases, they are paying top dollar for it too — as much as $500 a gallon (or about 125 times the cost of cow's milk). Are they weird, or are they on to something?
Worldwide, it isn't that unusual
The adult consumption of breast milk isn't as rare as you may think. In China, breast milk is taken straight from the tap by wealthy people in poor health. Tokyo, Japan, has a bar that employs lactating woman who sell milk — in shot glasses or straight from the tap. And Mongolians are well-known for their adult consumption of breast milk. In fact, women will often express milk for their husbands to enjoy as a treat, or leave a bowl of breast milk in the fridge for anyone in the household to enjoy.
There's some science behind it
For years, components of breast milk have been studied as a possible remedy for illnesses such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, gastrointestinal issues, dementia, strokes, traumatic brain injuries, diabetes and Parkinson's. Breast milk is a known home remedy for acne, pink eye, diaper rash and bug bites, and it heals just about any scratch or scrape quickly. It's often used by chemotherapy patients, as the bioavailability of breast milk allows for quick absorption of nutrients. And recently, a cancer cell-destroying drug derived from human breast milk has entered the pre-trial phase of clinical testing. Is it really such a stretch to think breast milk could give an athlete a boost too?
Moms who donate
Regardless of the health benefits, donated human milk is usually intended for human babies. Most women who donate milk do so because they know a mom in need — or were a mom in need — and want to help. Samantha H. says, "I donated about 40 ounces of breast milk to one of my best friends for her baby. She was having a hard time working and keeping up with pumping. It was important to me because she wanted her baby to have breast milk for the first year and I helped her meet that goal." Kate B. donated milk to a friend post-Cesarean, who didn't feel comfortable feeding her child given the medication she was prescribed. Brandy M. says, "In the beginning, I overproduced, so I donated. It was nice to donate then, not knowing that in 12 months I would be the one that was in need. The same moms I donated to donated back to me!"
But should it just be for babes?
Some moms are totally fine with their donated milk being used by adults. Amanda M. says, "The idea of our milk being used for athletes or humans in general does not bother me. Most of the population drinks milk from cows daily. I think that if there is excess it shouldn't go to waste but I wouldn't go above and beyond for general human consumption." Samantha H. agrees that human milk is fine for adults, saying, "I don't see a problem with a male athlete using it for an energy boost. It kind of makes me feel like Superwoman. I also think it takes a brave man to even try it and then admit it." And adoptive mom DeAnna B. says, "The thought of grown adults using breast milk as a supplement is kind of creepy, but to each their own. If there is enough milk produced, I don't see any harm in it."
But other moms disagree. Kate B. says she would never knowingly donate to an adult, saying "there are too many babies out there who need it more than an adult does." And Tammi C., who used to spend hours driving across three states to get enough milk for her son, said, "An adult using the milk for energy supplementation is disgusting. I can name ten or more babies who could use that milk for daily nutrition which is so much more important than energy for an adult."
Another win for breastfeeding normalcy
Regardless of how you feel about adult athletes consuming breast milk, the undeniable side effect of this trend is the introduction of alternate breast milk uses into the mainstream consciousness. We've seen a real turn lately in the acceptance of breastfeeding, as evidenced by the influx of celebrities posting nursing pics on social media, the policy change by Facebook to allow nursing photos and the awesome response Bob Evans had when they nursing-shamed a mother. Any step in the direction toward normalizing breastfeeding and seeing breasts as a carrier for food rather than purely sexual objects is a step in the right direction. Even if that step is taken with trainers by a male athlete needing an energy boost.