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Breast milk is not for men Fetishists and bodybuilders have created a booming black market

When breast milk is for sale, it's not just babies who drink it. Credit: Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

When breast milk is for sale, it's not just babies who drink it. Credit: Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images


January 21, 2022   5 mins

The “pumping room” at Ambrosia Labs in Cambodia is an airless and dystopian space. I see 20 or so women packed in, being “milked”. Their tops are off and they all have tubes attached to both nipples; their breast milk can be seen flowing through tubes into containers. They would do this for hours at a time, for six days a week. Above the noise of the pumps I could hear the cries of distressed babies and toddlers. They went hungry while the milk meant for them was extracted for export.

Once collected, the milk was transferred into plastic bags which were sealed, labelled and stored in a large freezer, ready to send to other mouths. For this precious liquid, the women were paid 50 cents an ounce, while those running the coercive operation were making a fortune.

Global demand for human breast milk has never been greater. Breast milk banks and peer-to-peer sharing have long existed, for mothers in need, but now it is increasingly being sold for profit. And not just to parents wishing to feed babies. There is a dark side to this trade, as there always is when human body parts and products are brokered.

In the UK, the commercialisation of breast milk is relatively new and was initially philanthropic in intent. Best Milk, one online provider, offered its product to premature, surrogate, adopted or “exceptionally hungry” babies; it asserted that babies fed on breast milk, rather than formula, have an improved IQ, a lower risk of cancer and chronic conditions, and are less likely to develop food intolerances and allergies. The website has now ceased trading.

NeoKare, meanwhile, Europe’s first breast milk processing plant has been going strong in England since March 2020. It offers, according to its website, “safe and screened breast milk products for when a mother’s own milk is not available. Invest in your baby’s future today.” However, at £45 for six 50ml bottles, it doesn’t come cheap. At two months of age, a baby should drink 120-150 ml every 3-4 hours, which means feeding will cost £112 per day. And buying breast milk online comes with risks. In the UK and Ireland, the market is unregulated, which leaves parents vulnerable to buying substandard or dangerous milk for their child. One study from 2015 found that 93% of breast milk sold online contains detectable levels of bacteria, because of the use of non-sterile equipment to express or store the milk. Babies who drink it can be exposed to Hepatitis B and C, HIV and syphilis.

Parents do have some non-commercial options. The NHS has milk banks — but there are only 13 for the whole of England and Wales. To stop the gap, Dr Natalie Shenker, an NHS-trained doctor, cofounded, with Gillian Weaver, of the Human Milk Foundation (HMF), the only charity in the UK dedicated to supplying breast milk to those ineligible for donor milk such as mothers with cancer. “We set up HMF because we knew that with the closing of NHS funded milk banks, businesses would soon be set up,” says Shenker. “And there are clear potential harms involved in paying a woman for producing milk.”

I’ve seen those harms with my own eyes. As I discovered during that trip in 2017 to Cambodia, those women being milked like cattle were part of a coercive business model developed by pimps in Phnom Penh: these men would advertise pregnant women from their brothels to breast milk and pregnancy fetishists, and then sell their milk mail-order style online.

This is booming international business: I have seen lactation “services” advertised by a New Zealand brothel, and spoken to trafficked West African women in Pisa, Italy, who told me, “Italian men like us pregnant and with our big breasts full of milk.”

Lactation and pregnancy pornography is an upsettingly fast growing genre. Last year’s Channel 4 documentary, Breastfeeding My Boyfriend, shed some light on the phenomenon. Aside from hearing the stories of two couples that practice “erotic feeding,” while livestreaming on porn sites, viewers were also introduced to a young woman that goes by “Milky Mummy,” a mother of three infants, who made £30,000 selling lactating videos online.

As a result, when breast milk is for sale, it’s not just women who buy it. As Karleen Gribble, an expert in infant feeding tells me: “In wealthy countries, little of the milk that is sold is used to feed babies. Mostly, milk for infant consumption is given without direct payment. Those buying milk tend to be adult men who want it to assist with bodybuilding or for sexual reasons.”

Those poor, desperate women selling their milk for such a pittance in Cambodia had no idea that it was as likely to go to male fetishists and weightlifters as it was babies.

In an attempt to understand why an adult man would buy such services, I spoke to someone who hides behind the pseudonym “Breast Milk Enjoyer”. He told me he was introduced to the concept by the online bodybuilding community, who drink breast milk for the human growth hormone IGF-1 and because it is rich in probiotics. “A friend gave me a bag of his wife’s frozen milk to try, to see if I liked it before making it a staple,” he told me. “It was much sweeter and waterier than I expected, almost sickly. But I persisted and found, it to be an acquired taste which I began to appreciate.”

Bodybuilders will pay a premium for breast milk from women who eat organic products, avoid seed oils, and eat healthy fats — as it’s unregulated, it can even be sold by individuals on Facebook. One male breast milk aficionado claimed on Twitter that “his women” “are on an elite diet so I know that the quality is head and shoulders above other human breast milk suppliers”.

Breast Milk Enjoyer also tells me that “the online right-wing bodybuilding community, which I am part of, sources almost entirely from wives of men in the sphere or women who are adjacent to it. I am very confident that having these personal links means we are sourcing the breast milk ethically.”  He also insists that his consumption is not sexual. “I very much enjoy it now. It’s not a fetish thing, I’ve just had so much of it over the years that any taboo is broken. Once you go frozen, you must try fresh off the tap.”

He does recognise, though, that there is an extreme end to the industry — without realising that he is part of the problem: “You have no idea of the state of our inboxes,” he laments. “Women will advertise a full-service milking experience, complete with costumes, for thousands of dollars.”

He can’t see that the commodification of women — whether this be the trade in their breast milk, the renting of their wombs, or the prostitution of their bodies — is always marketed as altruism, when in fact it is all about profit. And exploitation and abuse of disadvantaged women is at the core of all these transactions.

I have seen lactation fetishists refer to the women who provide the milk as “cows” on message boards. In Cambodia I heard babies and toddlers crying from hunger while the milk meant for their mouths was extracted for export. And I’ve heard grown men moan about lactating women clogging up their inboxes. It beggars belief that we are happy to commercialise maternal breastfeeding and let the milk snatchers make their own rules, rather than cracking down on yet another cynical exploitation of women and their bodies.


Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.

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Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

Julie Bindel spends too much time on porn sites. I am sure that she has found every fetish imaginable and a fair few that aren’t. She has, in consequence, developed a warped view of life.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It’s not really smut she’s after – it’s ever new ways to damn men – all of them – on the basis of anything she can find out about a few fringe nut jobs. Indeed, it’s almost a fetish in its own right.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

I think its well beyond fetish.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

I can’t comment on Bindel’s oeuvre, but in this case she seems intent on highlighting an issue she shows effects women, that is being driven by exploitation and demand of a group of men she has identified.
The problem is that she uses lazy language that here and there appears to implicate all men and does her arguments no favours. In my experience it is a feature of discussions about contentious issues that effect women but also involve some men in some negative, reprehensible way.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

She does nothing to show that the perps of this are for the most part, or even trivially, men. The market for human milk is evidently wealthy mothers who pay poor ones to do something they cannot be bothered to do.
JB finds one male who she claims and who claims to do this, and focuses all of her hate on him. But she’s done nothing to verify his actual existence, or that of the subculture he claims to reflect. The latter is so epically preposterous – “the online right-wing bodybuilding community” – that I strongly doubt it exists. It is much likelier she has simply been pranked by someone who is amusing himself online by seeing what outlandish nonsense he can get some crazed, humourless, sexist bigot to believe.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It should also be noted that the conditions under which these Cambodian women “work” is not changed one jot by who consumes the milk.
Whether it’s a rare fetishist, or wealthy western women who either can’t breast feed, or won’t, and refuse to feed their little precious on formula.
Not a story to interest JB though.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Les Dawson said it in a much funnier way. It was on sketch where he played a middle aged woman. The words were something like this ” It’s awful what they get up at No.. If one sits on the wardrobe one can see everything!”.
There is the story of Peeping Tom. The wife of the lord said the taxes are too high. The Lord said if you ride naked through the town I will lower the taxes. The Lady rode naked through the town and out of respect the people stayed indoors and did not look:except for Tom who peeped and was immediately blinded.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

My late mother used to say ‘if you throw mud at a window, some of it will stick’. This article is a good example. I wish I didn’t know about this lunatic perversion. The damned internet! It makes me understand the phrase ‘blissful ignorance’.

Can’t we just accept that in every large group of human beings there will be some odd wretches who only get aroused by say, signed photos of Diana (or whatever)? We can assume their existence without having to write entire articles about them?

You can’t unlearn things, so you have to be careful what goes in.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Unfortunately they decided to have something on TV recently about this strange set of people (I can’t remember which channel – I don’t think it was the BBC though). I never knew that this existed before and would have been happy not to have known. As I didn’t watch to programme I still don’t know much about it, but it seems another case of debasing a precious human activities and relationships – in this case a mother nursing her child.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago

Channel 4? That seems to be the home of framing pr0n as ‘human interest’ these days. Sounds ghastly and I cannot say I feel good for knowing that this programme was even made.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

What, and have JB miss out on an opportunity to tell us about another bizarre way that dreadful men exploit women. What else could she do?

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

It’s the Pundits Polemic – find some fringe element of unsavoury behaviour (usually a few men in JB’s case) and then magically inflate it into how all people behave (usually all men against all women in JB’s case).

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

One male breast milk aficionado claimed on Twitter that “his women” “are on an elite diet so I know that the quality is head and shoulders above other human breast milk suppliers”.

Surely this has got to be a wind up, with people like JB in its sights. Even the tone seems designed to send feminists into a self induced rage.
Somewhere, someone is reading this article and having a good laugh.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Possibly me.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

the online right-wing bodybuilding community, which I am part of

So that would be, what – him and one other bloke?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Only assuming that he doesn’t have conversations with himself.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It’s not Jack Murphy is it?

Mary Garner
Mary Garner
2 years ago

I can’t believe the comments here? Julie Bindel is reporting in a really nasty trade and exploitation

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Garner

I’m afraid that anything by Julie Bindel automatically gets these sorts of comments. If she wrote “I’m feeling a bit chilly today” there would be a rush of comments saying she deserves it and it’s all the fault of feminists like her.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

Perhaps. But if she wrote under a headline like: “lesbian baby farms” we’d sit up and take notice.
But all her writing is basically driven by one thing – hatred of men. That’s psychologically interesting in its own right, but unfortunately JB has no insight.
Her writing is emotional reasoning and rationalisation at work. She concludes from her antipathy towards men that men must be evil. And then spends her time digging out evidence to prove it. Understandably we are bored with it.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

I know, right. I mean, all blokes are horrid, aren’t they? I mean all of them, yeah?

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Cheers, Linda–you make an excellent point, though perhaps unintentionally. JB usually writes something that has the insight and the quality of “I’m feeling a bit chilly today,” (and therefore I hate men).
Why would we need someone on UnHerd to write “I’m feeling a bit chilly today?” Yet that is the level of insight she brings, along with my addition (and therefore I hate men). Maybe there are some smart women out there who have keen powers of observation who can write well on interesting topics. JB can do none of those things. She is simply unworthy of UnHerd, as are at least several of the regular contributions, who write meaningless tosh all the time, though their topics, writ large, are potentially important.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Spot on.
we’re not even any the wiser on why this tiny number of men have this fetish.

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

“I’m feeling a bit chilly today – men to blame”

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago

If I’ve read the author right over my time here, a woman should have absolute control over her body, unless sexuality is involved in any way. Exploitation and suffering are everywhere, to see it only in sex is myopic.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Exactly right, I think, Tim. A woman should have control over her body unless she does something a man might enjoy or of which JB disapproves (much the same) – engage voluntarily in prostitution, or ask to be spanked, or whatever. At this point, JB should have control of her body.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Al M
Al M
2 years ago

“ as likely to go to male fetishists and weightlifters as it was babies“

While bodybuilders may get up to some wacky things, I think Ms Bindel doesn’t understand the difference between bodybuilding and weightlifting, the latter being an Olympic sport.

Despite many years of training in gyms and witnessing many strange dietary fads, roid rage and everything in between, I really have never encountered anyone convinced that human milk turns you into the Hulk. I mean, sure, there’s one loony somewhere, I don’t doubt it.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

Daily I worry about little else.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

That’s because you are a selfish Westerner. Why just last night I was unable to sleep, thinking of the poor Cambodian women selling breast milk to Western bodybuilders so they can get HUGE. Having read this, I’m sure I will be unable to sleep tonight….
Kudos to JB for sharing this important–no essential–story with all of us!

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
2 years ago

What has JB done to attract all these trolls. I found this piece sickening. But I cannot read into it a hatred of all men.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

You haven’t read enough of her stuff. Monomania.

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
2 years ago

I saw this article headline in my Unherd email notification and I knew it would be a Bindel piece.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

It’s probably just me, but is there anyone else out there that just sees a “yuck factor” in this.

Tim Knight
Tim Knight
2 years ago

Any of us over about 18months old I expect.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

When will JB write a really important piece about the men who are left-hand toe suckers, exploiting vulnerable women by paying morbidly obese women to sit on them while sucking on their toes? Such fetish exploitation must be stopped, and we need JB to shine a light on this dark corner of the internet and expose it to the masses.
Well, maybe we don’t….

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The term “first world problems” was coined to describe a particular issue that is trivial but complained about in absense of anything more important.
I think we’ve just discovered “intersectional feminist problems.”

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago

Journalists are meant to expose bad actors in society that are under the radar. So congrats to Julie Bindel. This could not have been easy material to dig into. Now I have absolutely no interest in knowing about this subject, but there are doubtless legislators that should be.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

JB is not a journalist; she is an advocate. There is a difference.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Shill you mean. Having said that, which journalist isn’t?

Kiat Huang
Kiat Huang
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

If she’s good enough to get paid to write for Unherd then by definition she’s a journalist.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

How much was she paid for this article? I bet she did it for free/attention.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  Kiat Huang

She is NOT good enough to write for UnHerd. Why do they let her? Send her back to The Guardian or better yet, to some hidden dungeon where she can observe fetish lesbians abusing men. She will be happy there, and so will UnHerd readers, as long as she stays there.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

All we need is for these bodybuilding breast milk fetishists to turn out to be secretly trans, and our joy will be truly complete!

Gareth Rees
Gareth Rees
2 years ago

Dear God, I had never known this kind of thing existed. The exploitative aspect of this ‘business’ sickens me to my stomach. Although it is wrong to say so, I wish I had never read the article, and I am no supporter of the ignorance is bliss argument. Distressing and perturbing.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

Please, please there must be a male vegan somewhere to point out that females of other mammal species are exploited for their milk in ways far more cruel than that experienced by human females.

Gia Underwood
Gia Underwood
2 years ago

Vomit.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Gia Underwood

…which, if you troll the porn sites long enough, is also on offer to those who are into that kind of thing.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Female vomit?

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Got to be organic, though.

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

“Her body, her choice”. This nonsense is nauseating, but what do you expect when you give women the option to do this stuff and men to get away with it. Under the patriarchy what father or husband would have tolerated this state of affairs?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

The “pumping room” at Ambrosia Labs in Cambodia is an airless and dystopian space. I see 20 or so women packed in, being “milked”. Their tops are off and they all have tubes attached to both nipples; their breast milk can be seen flowing through tubes into containers. They would do this for hours at a time, for six days a week. 

Upon reading this I was reminded of that scene in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

With approx 8 bn people in the world, at least 5bn with internet access, it’s a fair bet that any perversion you can think of will find a quorum.
But that quorum will be vastly outnumbered by people who write and read about it

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

And put another way – if you are unscrupulous enough, you could generalise from that tiny number to support any theory you like, and damn any group that you like – explicitly, by association, or by claiming it tells us something about the group as a whole.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

Bodybuilders will pay a premium for breast milk from women who eat organic products, avoid seed oils, and eat healthy fats

From the costs given by Julie for feeding a baby, this has got to be an extremely expensive body building supplement, let alone fetish. How big is this really?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

She’s identified one bloke. I suspect that’s it.
If bodybuilders want HGH, they can usually get it off their anabolic steroid dealer.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago

Julie Bindel always undermines her own case, even when she has a valid point, by engaging in extreme and blatant misandry.
What’s sad is that her reporting on serious issues more often than not makes for humorous reading because she inevitably gets side tracked into telling us that all men are oppressors of women.

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

Bitty!

Christina Taylor
Christina Taylor
2 years ago

Anyone care about the kids?

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

Isn’t the bigger and much more pertinent question whether the milk of cattle is for homo sapiens men, women or babies?

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
2 years ago

Yawn. Once again a predicatable narrative in which surprise surprsise, a tale of exploitation by…..a man.

Last edited 2 years ago by Richard Turpin