China markets in everything

by on July 4, 2013 at 1:11 pm in Food and Drink | Permalink

“Adult [clients] can drink it directly through breastfeeding, or they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel embarrassed,” the report quoted company owner Lin Jun as saying.

Wet nurses serving adults are paid about 16,000 yuan (US$2,610) a month — more than four times the Chinese average — and those who are “healthy and good looking” can earn even more, the report said.

Traditional beliefs in some parts of China hold that human breast milk has the best and most easily digestible nutrition for people who are ill.

There is more to the story here, and for the pointer I thank a loyal MR reader.

1 Dylan July 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Googling will reveal multiple sources claiming that 90% of Chinese suffer “some degree” of lactose intolerance and that dairy consumption is rising rapidly from a small base.

2 MilkMan July 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Lactose-free milk is a reasonable substitute, and it’s not terribly expensive to manufacture.

3 Ed July 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Ordinary milk sold in China is lactose-free. At least that is what my lactose-intolerant wife discovered after we lived in China for six years. She could drink the regular milk there but buys lactose-free milk in the U.S.

4 DK July 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm

“Ordinary milk sold in China is lactose-free”

Huh??? Ordinary milk cannot be lactose-free. Anything that is lactose-free is no longer a milk. It is not a trivial procedure to separate sugars from everything else. E.g., it would be A LOT less “milk” that OJ concentrate is an orange juice. And unless milk tastes sweet, you can be sure that all that lactase added to the milk is nothing but snake oil. How sweet? – think 2.5 teaspoons table sugar per cup.

5 Ed July 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm

DK, Some people can apparently tolerate drinking milk in China who cannot tolerate it in America. Perhaps the milk sold in stores in China is equivalent to lactose reduced milk here. I don’t know.

6 Truth Be July 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm

So I took a college comp lit course and read a book of Chinese short stories (English translation) and one of them had a character whose doctor told him to drink a cup of mother’s milk every day (story was written before 1911 for whatever that’s worth). He got the milk from one of the village’s wet nurses. So taking human milk as medicine is nothing new in China.

Also, simple fact is that human milk is very digestble to humans (duh) and more to the point comtains immune proteins from the nurse intended to assist an infant, but possibly helpful even to an adult.

7 Mark Thorson July 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I watch CCTV now and then, and several months ago they ran a segment on a patriotic Chinese opera about a woman who used her breast milk to save the life of a wounded soldier (I forget whether it was in the war against Japan or the civil war). I thought it was odd that such a story would be popular in a country with the Victorian attitude toward sexuality that China has.

8 actually July 5, 2013 at 2:24 am

america-centric bias, mark. only in arbitrarily puritanical usa (with the oldest industrial economy of baby formula manufacture) is breastfeeding considered “sexual” at large.
idk what exactly you saw on tv, but the trope of women using breast milk to save soldiers is an old one, and dates from chinese involvement in the korean war (the most common version is that the women were korean and the soldiers were members of the chinese volunteer expeditionary force)

9 So Much For Subtlety July 5, 2013 at 5:44 am

When an Egyptian cleric suggested solving the problem of unrelated men and women working together by breast feeding the adult men, the reaction was such as to lead me to think that perhaps Arab Muslims see this as a little sexual as well.

Was it in the US that a mother had her child taken into Care for claiming that she found breast feeding sexually arousing to the point of orgasm?

The US is not arbitrary, nor does the rest of the world miss the sexual nature of breast feeding. Well, the Chinese might.

10 ACTUALLY July 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Breastfeeding does not lead to moral panic across the Atlantic. However I concede this may be because there’s topless girls on page 3 and topless beaches, i.e. breasts are still ipso facto sexual, just overexposed and desensitized.

11 widmerpool July 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

Breast milk to save soldiers is a thing in Vietnam too. There’s a large mural of a woman filling a cup next to the bed of an injured soldier in the war museum in Hanoi. I can’t remember anything similar off the top of my head for Europe, were there just always more cows and goats there?

12 michael July 5, 2013 at 3:50 am

grapes of wrath, anyone?

I found the ending very awkward when we read it in high school, but then again that was USA in the early 2000s. Probably less controversial even in the 40s when the book was set, but then again perhaps Steinbeck wanted to make a splash.

13 Horhe July 7, 2013 at 9:31 am

It is an act of filial piety that gains the admiration of the Roman public. There was even a painting with it, by a Dutch painter… Vermeer? Then again, the Romans were, I believe, less enamored with the female body than the male one, and women would stunt the growth of their breasts by constricting them with “fascias”. The utilitarian viewpoint, I believe…

14 arbitraryaardvark July 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm

there’s also a significant market for human milk in the usa, although it’s for babies.

15 Thor July 5, 2013 at 6:38 am

There’s also quite the market — US and worldwide — for the natural containers that human milk comes in.

16 x July 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Interesting, I never thought about the option of hiring a lactating prostitute.

On further thought, it doesn’t really seem appealing enough to be worth the hassle of locating one.

17 Ed July 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

We drink milk that came from a cow’s breast. What is the big deal about a human drinking actual human milk intended for humans?

When you think about it, humanity took some strange twists to domesticate cows for large-scale milk production. A much more plausible solution for an adult who needed milk would have been to purchase it from a woman who could produce milk.

18 anon July 4, 2013 at 6:01 pm

As someone who breast fed and did a fair bit of pumping, I am happy to outsource mass milk production to cows. I don’t see a problem with wet nurses, though adults who are not “embarrassed” by self serve should pay a premium, different service I suspect.

19 Axa July 5, 2013 at 5:27 am

Economies of scale. What’s the woman/cow milk production ratio?

20 Axa July 5, 2013 at 5:46 am

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that breast milk is not created in excess. Due to cow selection trough many generations, cows produce more milk than a calf needs. Average women do not have that capacity. Sometimes, children are still hungry after emptying their mother’s breasts. That may cause the initial disgust reaction, you’re taking food from a child, you debauched rich!!! Even tough, a win-win-win situation may be attained when a poor mother with a child sells a fraction of her milk. The customer gets some milk, the mother can eat better & produce more milk and the child also benefits from better nutrition.

21 JWatts July 5, 2013 at 11:45 am

What is the big deal about a human drinking actual human milk intended for humans?


22 Peter July 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I would say that it reminds me of this video I watched the other day on YouPorn, but of course I don’t watch pornography, so that actually isn’t true.

23 Marie July 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Spoiler, Grapes of Wrath.

24 Willitts July 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

If you knew whose mouths those things were in….

25 Rahul July 4, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Would this be legal in the US? Or not?

26 So Much For Subtlety July 5, 2013 at 5:42 am

John D. Rockefeller was said to have ended his life on a diet of mainly human breast milk. I have no idea if this is true or a piece of leftist agit-prop but I would have trouble identifying what laws were being broken. If in doubt tell them it is a sexual thing. Then they would have to leave you alone.

27 Rahul July 5, 2013 at 7:29 am

It’d be an interesting legal argument that allows lactation for remuneration, but forbids, say, paid fellatio.

28 j r July 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

I prefer Cambodian breast milk.

29 Dan Weber July 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

Tyler’s variation: Never drink breast milk from a good-looking woman.

30 JWatts July 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

and those who are “healthy and good looking” can earn even more, the report said.

When I read that, the first thing I thought was, “Who drinks breast milk from an obviously unhealthy woman?”

Now I know.

31 ACTUALLY July 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm


32 Tununak July 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

The story of a woman breastfeeding her own father goes back to ancient Roman times …

Vermeer put a painting depicting this in the background of one of his own paintings. No word on whether he thought it was erotic.

33 Deena Garzik July 5, 2013 at 11:02 pm

As a nursing mother (of two) I’d like to point out a few things:

The issue with confusing nursing and sexuality – it’s not just a problem in the US, though it’s particularly strong here. The problem is that breasts are secondary sexual characteristics. They appear at adolescence, and they are a mark of a sexually mature body (along with bigger hips, armpit hair, or in the males, facial hair, deep voice, etc.)

So, breasts are a signal to males that the female is capable of bearing children. As such, they are naturally viewed with enthusiasm when selecting a potential mate.

On the other hand, the act of nursing is not a sexual act, though sometimes sexual feelings can happen at the same time. (Hey, occasionally guys pop a boner while they mow the lawn, and I’ll bet you that very small percentage of guys get one every time. But generally, mowing the lawn is not a sexual act.)

Because we are not used to viewing breasts as a dual-function organ, there is the constant tension between lactivists (a cute word for breastfeeding advocates) and those who view breasts, enthusiastically or not, as primarily a sexual organ.

Breasts have two functions, and every culture deals with that in its own way. I’m tired of people shaming men for enjoying the sight of them, and I’m also tired of people shaming me because I’m trying to feed my babies the best food available.

As for the various stores referenced in the comments about soldiers and breastmilk, well, every culture is going to deal with breasts in its own way. I’ve heard that in Mongolia, there is tremendous pride in the fact that Genghis Khan apparently nursed for a very long time, and mothers are advised to do the same for their children.

Also, to answer Axa, breast milk production can indeed be scaled up in individual mothers. Abilities vary, but many mothers are commonly able to produce more than their children eat. Oversupply can just happen on its own (and is sometimes a problem) or you can cause it by pumping. Wet nurses commonly fed more children than they had borne because of this (and many were indeed paid). Today, some women are able to donate milk to milk banks (which offer milk to children in need, similar to blood banks) while meeting all their own childrens’ needs at the same time.

34 Venkat July 9, 2013 at 3:19 am

What next now? Taking videos of adult men drinking milk and making money from it too. Is this communism or consumerism

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: