January 4, 2005


Adults get breast milk to ease symptoms (BARBARA FEDER OSTROV, 1/04/05, Knight Ridder News Service)

Breast milk isn't just for babies at the Mothers' Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif., which quietly offers it to adults with cancer and other serious illnesses to ease their symptoms.

The milk bank is one of just six in the United States. It distributes donated breast milk primarily to premature and low-birth-weight babies. However, it also will provide breast milk to adults with a doctor's prescription.

Adult use of breast milk is rare, according to Pauline Sakamoto of the milk bank in San Jose, which has served 28 adult patients in the past four years.

Adults with cancer, digestive disorders and immune disorders may drink several ounces of milk daily or weekly to ease the ravages of chemotherapy, bolster their immune systems and improve their digestion, she said.

No national figures exist for adult use of breast milk, but an informal survey of the nation's milk banks suggest that they currently serve dozens of adult patients.

Breast milk's benefits for babies have been well documented, with research showing that it helps fight infection, improves immune system function, increases intelligence and combats obesity in later life.

But can it help sick grown-ups? No one knows because so little research has been done.

Freud would have understood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 4, 2005 8:52 AM

Did she say, "increases intelligence?"

I've heard a lot of claims from the LaLechers, but increased intelligence? The politicization of breast-feeding is complete!

Posted by: Brian McKim at January 4, 2005 9:29 AM

Maybe they mean the powdered stuff makes you stupider.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at January 4, 2005 9:37 AM

I'm assuming those touting this will not go as far as to offer their customers the option of being served the product either bottled or straight from the tap...

Posted by: John at January 4, 2005 11:32 AM

For our first born the wife tried to breast-feed but ran into difficulties. After a week and half of big time frustration (and the child beginning to show signs of dehydration) we switched to formula. To this day I still remember the pressure from the nurses and doctors to stay with breast feeding and the condescension when we switched to formula. Milk probably has more health benefits than formula but the ferver with which bf was pushed at us was annoying.

Posted by: AWW at January 4, 2005 11:39 AM

Thus the cycles of medical quackery turn. Wasn't it a few decades ago that any right thinking mother switched to "formula" as soon as possible?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 4, 2005 4:37 PM

There's always the pragmatic approach. A friend of mine breast fed her kids for a couple of years because her breasts were a lot cheaper to run than buying baby formula or even milk.

P.S. Aren't "fight infection" and "improve immune system function" the same thing?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 4, 2005 8:26 PM