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Life section page 28-The Sunday Times
9th May 2004

Norwegian mum sells breast milk and buys a car

HERE'S what 500 litres of breast milk is worth. Since last May, Anette Lie has sold more than 500 litres of expressed milk and she has bought a car with her earnings.

Ms Lie was paid 11 ($33.80) per litre and has made a total of 5,275, reported Nettavisen quoting the Kanal 24 radio station.

She said: "I'm making some money on this. I bought a car, everything paid by breast milk."

Ms Lie claimed her ability to produce so much breast milk is genetic.

"My mother was the same way, and I've heard my grand mother nursed children around town, so it's hereditary. It's my hormones. I apparently have lots of them," she said.

Here is the response from Chris Mulford, IBCLC, with full permission:

To me the notable thing about this story is the price that she got for selling her milk to the milk bank: Almost US$20 per liter. The issue of placing a value on human milk is a tough one. When Solveig Francis and I researched the topic for "The Milk of Human Kindness," we found values that had been assigned to human milk ranging from US$0.27 a liter to US$600 a liter.

Twenty-seven cents a liter was what a woman in Nepal would pay for cows' milk from a dairy to replace her own milk if she did not breastfeed.

Fifty cents per liter was the value given in order to estimate the value of human milk produced in the nation of Indonesia... and even at that low rate, the value of human milk was larger than the national health budget, larger than the national production of tin and coffee, and approached the value of rubber.

One dollar per liter was the value assigned to milk in the Hatloy & Olshaug article from JHL, in which it was estimated that counting human milk production in Mali would raise the the GDP by 5%.

$600 a liter was the price one Danish hospital charged another hospital from outside the country ($18.20 an ounce). This was reported in JHL. Presumably, whoever set that price thought that other hospitals jolly well ought to collect their own milk, and if they wouldn't take the trouble, then they'd have to pay the Big Bucks.

US milk banks charge around $3.00 an ounce now, which is close to $100 a liter, and the donors are not paid.

Meanwhile, my understanding is that the price to purchase banked milk in Norway is about $48 a liter...and half of that price goes to pay the woman who supplied the milk! Remember that Norway is the only country that includes human milk production on its national economic balance sheet. In other words, Norway is the only country where human milk is formally recognized as having an economic value.

Gee, do you suppose this fact is related to the fact that Norway has the best breastfeeding rates in the developed world?

Looking over these figures, do we think that that $20 a liter looks like a fair price for the producer? And do we think that making milk for one's own child should have a different "value" than making milk for other people's children? I once calculated (conservatively) that I had produced a ton of milk over the course of long-term nursing two children. Do I think that experience was in any sense "worth" $20,000?

Of course, the experience was beyond price...

I guess the intellectual exercise of assigning a value to something priceless is just a tool to help us examine what we think about this basic part of human life... human biology... women's role in reproduction... women's economic life. Assigning a monetary value gives us one way to compare apples and oranges.

Musing in Swarthmore...
Chris Mulford, RN, IBCLC
LLL Leader Reserve
working for WIC in South Jersey (Eastern USA)
Co-coordinator, Women & Work Task Force, WABA

Dry baby formula dangerous: Study

SCIENTISTS say a food-borne bacteria that causes rare but frequently fatal brain disorders in babies is found in almost one in four samples of powdered infant formula.

Mr Donald Zink, a scientist at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said it's not possible with current technologies to kill the pathogen in the processing of infant food, reported Washington's Times Record News.

The agency is alerting the public and neo-natal centers to recognize that dried infant formula is not a sterile product, he said.

Four out of 10 UK babies were “accidents”

A POLL of 3,000 mothers and mothers-to-be across the UK has found that 42 per cent had become pregnant by mistake.

Almost half (46 per cent) of these blamed difficulties with contraception, with 62 per cent saying they had problems with the Pill and 19 per cent blaming a split condom, reported Femail.co

The survey was commissioned by online contraception information service evriwoman.co.uk.

It found that nearly seven out of 10 forgot to take the Pill at least one time a month. Dr Rosemary Leonard said women who missed one or more Pill per cycle were more than twice as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than those who took it every day.

Seventy-eight per cent of the “accidental” mothers kept the baby, but one in five wished they could have turned back the clock and not become pregnant.


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