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Breastmilk on the Playa? Why Drinking Breastmilk at Burning Man (and as an Adult) is a No No

Posted in Food Safety on August 27, 2018

You think of yourself as all natural. You consider your body to be a well-built machine that deserves only the best. You’re thinking about your future, how you will feel, how strong you will be. One of the ways you do this is by thinking about quality nourishment. You eat clean. You turn you nose up at processed foods. So, you think, “What’s more natural than breastmilk?”

Yes, you are right. Breastmilk is packed with all the things a baby needs. Notice I said, “Baby.” That’s because as an adult, drinking breastmilk is not doing what you think it’s doing. For an infant, it’s the holy grail of health; but, for you, it’s just not. Sorry to disappoint. The founder of Thinx gave away her breastmilk last year at Burning Man for those hoping for a miracle hangover cure. She wrote on her Instagram:

“I pumped my breasts every three hours at @burningman and gave away most of my milk. Some people downed a whole four ounces hoping for a hangover cure. Some wanted it for their coffee to make lattes. So many were excited and curious to try it. I drank some too when I ran out of water, it tastes like sweet coconut milk! So many people told me that they had no idea that I had to keep pumping every three hours because they didn’t know that breasts would become engorged and super painful if they were not pumped – nature’s way of keeping mama and baby working together 🙂 It made me realize that most people (including me before I had Hiro) know very little about motherhood and birth and post birth and that this needs to be mandatory learning for all humans. Every human has been birthed and raised somehow and yet even the smartest people have no idea what this process looks like. Nobody learns how to become a parent, let alone a good one. Time to change this! Great parenting can change the world! More conversations about this soon! #burningman #burningman2017”

Some believe it is a question of not if you can drink it, but if you should.

For some of the public the thought of drinking breastmilk is somewhat shocking, for others it’s a common endeavor. Where might you see this? One answer is festivals. Since festival season has begun, I think it’s about time for a little bit of breastmilk-for-adult’s education. So, let’s clear the air before you slurp down a mother’s milk. For those of you who are already getting your feathered-costume shackles up at this subject, I’m not here to shake the foundations of your Burning Man fun, this is to give you a little heads-up prior to your play.

Here’s the hard truth: breast milk does not offer nutrition to an adult’s body as it does for infants. I know; I get it. You’re a bit disappointed and you want to say, “But, it has all those nutrients!” Well, yes it does, but your adult digestive system is too tough for the substance and will simply break down the good-guy nutrients until they are nothing. For the mom’s delivering that milk, good on you to keep those puppies pumping, but this delivery has more risk than rewards.

Disease through breastmilk is a real thing.

Unmonitored breast milk can transfer infections. HIV may have a slim chance of transmission through breastmilk, but the risk there. Then, there’s CMV and HTLV-1. For those ladies that breastfeed, you know the downside. Nipples damaged with sores, chapped skin, and slight bleeding are part of the game. Even if you’re aware of your health history after pre and post-partum doctor visits, those who receive your breastmilk do not. This means they are the ones taking on the risk with the consumption of body fluid that doesn’t benefit them nutritionally… not even a little bit.

But, wait, the nutrients!

With all those risks, why do we feed it to babies? That’s the great think about humans, we develop awesome things to survive the tribulations of infancy. Infants develop a super-awesome resistance through antibodies from the mother’s maternal bacterium. The easier explanation: the infant has most likely already been exposed during gestation before the mother even has symptoms. From this, the babe most likely developed immunities that protect them during breastfeeding. In some cases, as with the above-mention infections, breastfeeding is deemed too risky and halted. Antibodies are incredible, but they aren’t impenetrable. What I’m saying is, chugging breastmilk over the span of a few days does not allow enough time for antibodies to build. So, don’t expect antibodies to save you from a stranger’s infections.

Oh, wait, there’s more problems.

Breast-feeding is also a risk of food-borne illnesses. Breast milk isn’t resistant to SalmonellaIf you expect food-handlers to wash their hands before they serve you, then you should apply that practice when it comes to sterilizing your beverages. When it comes to liquids, there are more steps to cleanliness than washing hands.

Purchasing breastmilk from online sources has been trending for a bit, but it’s an unmonitored system. Without specific treatments or testing requirements, you just can’t be sure what bacterium you are ordering.

Fact: Breastmilk is the perfect source of nourishment for infants

Also a Fact: Breastmilk attributes don’t work for adults.

Breastmilk is ever-changing. It grows in nutrients as the baby grows. But, eventually your body outgrows it. The adult digestive system strong; stronger than this beautiful substance. As with all nutrient-rich substances, more positives will come to light about breast milk, but you’ll probably be contaminated by a bacterium you’d rather avoid long before you find out what those breastmilk secrets are.

Infections may come from the donor’s skin, an unclean breast pump, faulty storage, or a mother’s disease, making breastmilk consumption a bad idea. Let me say this again: There is no nutritional value in breastmilk for adults who drink it. Sorry guys, with no reward it’s all just risk.

Natural doesn’t always mean safe. It also doesn’t mean worth it. It’s okay though, I promise there are incredible options to gain those nutrients you seek. Keep eating safe and keep it clean.

By: Heaven Bassett, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)