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Chapter 14 169 Today, breastfeeding, human milk, and its substitute, infant formula, are commodities . “Mother’s milk” is marketed both literally and figuratively, as a good for sale, a normative behavior, and a cure for a variety of contemporary social and medical problems. Like previous exploitations of women’s bodies, including their eggs and uteruses, the idea that human milk is a valuable good that can be given away, traded in a market, or subjected to scientific experimentation raises important ethical, moral, and policy questions. This chapter examines the emerging markets in human milk and the competing market in infant formula through a feminist lens. It asserts that women are autonomous decision makers, capable of making informed choices about the value of breastfeeding, human milk, and their own labor, in light of their individual needs as well as those of children and family. It advances the provocative argument that only by acknowledging that human milk has become a marketable commodity and offering women the chance to be paid for their milk in a regulated market can feminist aims be achieved. This chapter reviews the markets in human milk and infant formula and considers how medicine and government have shaped the development of those markets. It asserts that recognizing human milk as a valuable commodity , for which women can be paid, promotes feminist ideals. The chapter concludes with a proposal for a regulated market that makes it possible for women to earn a fair wage for their productive labor in producing excess milk. The Markets in Human Milk and Infant Formula Markets respond to demand. This chapter contends that the market in human milk is growing because of a combination of demand drivers: increased advocacy Marketing Mothers’ Milk The Markets for Human Milk and Infant Formula Linda C. Fentiman by health care professionals and government for the human milk’s benefits, coupled with the difficulty many mothers face in providing this commodity, due to cultural, economic, legal, medical, psychological, and workplace obstacles. The infant formula market exploits these obstacles by marketing that suggests that formula is nearly as good as “the real thing,” human milk. The demand for milk is constructed by both biological reality and subtle marketing signals.1 Those who believe that breastfeeding is superior to bottle-feeding usually believe that human milk itself is a product that not only provides infants with important nutrition and immunities but also can function as a miraculous liquid in other circumstances. On “lactivist” blogs and mainstream news media, mothers and health educators tout human milk as a cure for conjunctivitis, rashes, and other childhood maladies. Human milk is used to treat burn victims, chemotherapy patients, and organ transplant recipients.2 Some research indicates that milk might be used to treat cancer.3 Prolacta Bioscience, a for-profit California company, takes donated milk and turns it into human milk fortifiers, which it sells to neonatal intensive care units. At present, two sets of markets involve breastfeeding and human milk. The first are the formal and informal markets in human milk itself; the second concerns infant formula. The markets in human milk and infant formula both respond to the claim that “breast is best.”4 The human milk markets make their magic elixir available either as processed milk or as special fortifiers. The infant formula market promotes new products claimed to be identical to human milk, with nutritional enhancements that mimic human milk or organic variations offering a different type of “naturalness.”5 Both markets confront the same demographic reality: a flat birthrate that predicts a stable demand for milk products for the foreseeable future. Physicians play a key role in increasing demand for human milk by asserting its superiority to formula, especially for premature and low birth weight infants.6 Some physicians prescribe human milk to older children and adults. For much of history the market for human milk focused on the services provided by wet nurses. In elite societies women who preferred not to breastfeed employed wet nurses.7 In the United States, the use of slaves as “mammies” meant that many slave women could not care for their own children, a legacy that may contribute to some African American women’s current discomfort with breastfeeding.8 Today, many nursing women donate or sell their extra milk to family, friends, or total strangers. These transactions are facilitated through websites as varied as craigslist and “lactivist” blogs.9 The American Academy of Pediatrics 170 Linda C. Fentiman...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813553160
Related ISBN
9780813553030
MARC Record
OCLC
805510887
Pages
356
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-22
Language
English
Open Access
No
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