For those of you who don’t know, I have a sister. She’s one of my best friends, all-around favorite people in the world (no shade to my brother), and has gifted me with arguably the most adorable niece and nephew in the world. (Fight me.) Seriously, she’s in my top three; we’ve shared meals, clothes, makeup, and many, many bottles of wine ...
But you know what we won’t ever be sharing? Breast milk. It’s just a boundary I don’t see us crossing—like, ever.
But my sister and I are not twins, and we’re definitely not Tia and Tamera Mowry, who clearly have no problem exchanging bodily fluids—at least not for a good reason. So, when Tamera came down with a bug and Tia sent her an article on the healing properties of breast milk, Tamera was desperate enough for a cure that she happily drank some ... and proclaimed it “the best she’s ever tried.”
“Ps, she’s had some before and I mean, she’s my twin,” Tia captioned her own post of her sister’s ringing endorsement. But while we wholeheartedly support (and even applaud) breastfeeding mothers, we have to admit this is information we could’ve gone the rest of our lives without knowing.
Instead, now we just have questions.
First, how much breast milk do you have to drink to proclaim one the best? Is it like a wine tasting? Are there varietals? Does your mom’s count—and if so, is she now offended?
Second, we know breast milk can provide vital antibodies to babies, but how beneficial is breast milk to adults? While we don’t know the exact source of the article in question, curiosity inspired a search of our own—unsurprisingly (because, internet), there were a bevy of articles on the topic, including a 2017 Vice article where a woman drank her friend’s breast milk for a week (again, a closeness I’ve never aspired to with the lactating women in my life).
With some apprehension, I take a sip. The milk is warm and kind of sweet—it reminds me of very watery horchata. It’s not so different from oat milk or rice milk, except for the aftertaste, which assures you immediately that you’re drinking something that came out of a mammal. When I give her a look that says, “Oy, I just drank your breast milk,” she smiles at me. She tells me that she has drunk her own breast milk many times—she has even cooked with it. “I make so much milk that I don’t know what to do with it,” she says. “It’s too much for the baby, and I feel awful throwing it away.”
From what I’ve heard, it freezes well for up to six months, but I digress. As Vice points out, there is an active market for breast milk—and not just for babies’ use. Bodybuilders have tried it to bulk up, people have used it topically to treat acne and sunburns (and as contact lens solution???), and yes, there is a sexual fetish involving breast milk, as well.
As for Tia Mowry’s remedy recommendation, that may stem from a Chinese belief that human breast milk “contains the most nutritional value for people that are ill,” according to a 2013 article from the Medical Daily, which lists treatment of sore throats as a potential use. But it’s worth noting that breast milk genetically tailors itself between mother and child, providing the exact nutrients and antibodies a baby needs to thrive. As a 2015 Newsweek article noted:
[B]reast milk’s purported benefits to adults are not supported by science. In fact, research shows it may be a health hazard. A new paper published this week in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine looked for the science to back up the black market claims. Simply put: Breast milk definitely isn’t for grown-ups.
In fact, that study posited that anyone claiming to feel a boost from human milk is likely experiencing a placebo effect, as not only does human milk not boost performance or endurance, but has less protein than cow’s milk.
And then, there are very real health risks:
Most mothers selling their goods on the black market aren’t concerned with quality control, which means many don’t sufficiently sanitize before pumping. Lack of refrigeration during transport also provides ample opportunity for the milk to become contaminated with bacteria that may cause foodborne illness.
Additionally, black market breast milk may contain other pathogens that cause serious infectious diseases, including hepatitis, syphilis and HIV; many of these diseases do not have symptoms, so a woman may even be unaware that she’s sick when she sells her milk.
We’re assuming none of the above is the case between the Mowry twins, but as this story makes the rounds, it’s important to point out that while breastfeeding is recommended for babies, it is not recommended as a homeopathic remedy for adults.
Aside from that, we probably could’ve done without the overshare, because while we love that the Mowrys are so close, it’s really more than we needed to know.
The Glow Up tip: Interested in learning more about breastfeeding your baby? Check out the Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Moms on Facebook.