You know what I didn’t think I’d be doing this time last week?
Drinking my wife’s breast milk.
But that’s exactly what I did tonight — in the interests of journalism; and also in the interests of challenging what I realized was my totally unjustified “ick” factor.
My wife has been breastfeeding our second child for a number of weeks now and we always joke that she’ll be the “go to” when we run out of milk for our Cheerios. Yet the truth is, like the majority of Americans, I thought that the idea of actually drinking breast milk was gross.
Which is interesting; because I spent the best part of a year doing exactly that when I was a baby.
What makes it even more interesting is the fact that scientists are discovering more and more miraculous things about Mommy Milk. In April of last year, researchers in Sweden isolated a chain of proteins known as HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells) which could actually attack and kill over 40 types of human cancer.
In fact, a growing number of cancer patients are seeking out human milk donors because of the suggestion that breast milk holds the key to their “untreatable” disease. Even the medical community has weighed in. Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey, explained, “There's promising research that would indicate that in the future the solution for not only preventing cancer, but even treating and curing cancer might be in human milk.”
But that leaves us with one important hurdle to overcome — would anybody drink it?
Well, the short answer is yes — enough so that six breast milk banks have been set up across the country, and now cancer patients can request their doctors write them a prescription for human breast milk if other treatment options have failed.
But the most of us, the thought is… well… ick.
Which doesn’t make sense. I shuddered at the thought of drinking human breast milk, yet grew up on a farm drinking cow’s milk while it was still warm from the teat. What makes is so different when it comes from a person?
It’s an interesting question, and perhaps linked to why people have such a hang-up about breastfeeding in America. Websites like Facebook actively seek out and remove pictures of mothers breastfeeding their babies; and even though it’s a legally protected right, women get harassed and insulted when discreetly breastfeeding in public locations such as restaurants (which seems kind of ironic — since everybody else is there to chow down as well).
It was my wife who suggested I try a taste of her breast milk; and that’s what gave birth to the idea for this article.
I’ll admit that I was grossed out. The thought of drinking human milk seemed… well, icky. Even though we’re currently sharing a house with a three month old who guzzles down so much of the stuff we’ve nicknamed him “Chugger.”
But my wife made me realize what a queer concept the “grossness” of breast milk was.
Think of all the other bodily fluids we exchange with those we love: The dénouement to most blowjobs is a mouthful of semen. The most appetizing oral encounters are with a pussy glistening with arousal. We’ll swap spit with people we hardly know in clubs and bars; and those with partners they trust sometimes embrace taboos like “tossing the salad,” better known as analingus.
The fact is, most us are willing to ingest all sorts of fluids from those we love or are attracted to; but breast milk remains a taboo. In an impartial, and admittedly inadequate, survey I conducted, most women I spoke to admitted they’d rather gulp down a mouthful of cum than drink another woman’s breast milk. And cum doesn’t cure cancer (or even taste very good).
No, there’s a hang-up at work there; and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
Perhaps it’s because the other bodily fluids we’ve mentioned are swapped in the heat of sexual passion. Unless you have a lactation fetish, breast milk is purely businesslike. The things we’re willing to put in our mouth when we’re on the brink of orgasm are presumably very different to what we’d drink on a more vanilla occasion.
But I also think America’s distrust and hostility to breastfeeding in general plays a part it in — sending out the message that somehow breast milk is disgusting and icky. If you want proof, just look at the results of another impartial, but not very statistically sound survey I did. Most of my friends admitted they’d drink a capful of baby formula but not a woman’s breast milk.
I know I felt the same; and talking it through with my wife made me realize that this instinctual, visceral “ick” factor made no rational sense at all. That’s why I decided to embrace my discomfort and take her up on the challenge of drinking a glass of breast milk.
And the result?
Well, I did it — and I’m kind of proud of myself for that. And just like asparagus did when my mother made me eat it as a kid, breast milk turned out not to taste as icky as I’d imagined. It was kind of sweet and sugary; almost like coconut milk. It had a pungentness to it too, much like the fresh-from-the-cow milk I’d poured on my cornflakes growing up.
I’m not going to lie to you — I’m not going to stop buying my Simply Skim any time soon. But the experiment challenged my own preconceived squickiness about breast milk; and made me realize that America is selling itself off short by perpetuating the myth that breast milk is somehow “gross” and “disgusting.”
It’s not. Just ask my youngest son — he drinks a pint of it every day.