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The Breastmilk Market

  • Series
A mixed media illustration depicting a mother breastfeeding. The mother is simultaneously feeding a child and using a breast pump. She is surrounded by fridges of baby bottles filled with milk, with tiny figures of people moving the bottles around. In the background we see stars, depicting that it is nighttime.
A Freezer full of breastmilk. © Vicky Scott for Wellcome Collection.

Six months after the birth of her first child, journalist Alev Scott found she had a freezer full of breastmilk she’d earnestly pumped but that her baby would never need. What should she do with it?

As Alev investigated how to donate to her local hospital, she discovered a busy contemporary market for human milk. Her initial quest became an eye-opening journey as she explored the ethics of buying and sharing milk.

In this six-part series, Alev explores the multiple ways breastmilk has been traded across time: from professional wet-nurses and cross-feeding friends, non-profit milk banks and commercial breastmilk businesses, to the online marketplaces where buyers are often men purchasing for sexual pleasure.