The Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar

by DaniGirl on July 14, 2006 · 11 comments

in Uncategorized

Catchy title, eh?

Sometimes I have to turn over rocks and scrape barrel bottoms to find blog material, and sometimes things leap out of the newspaper and holler “Blog me!” This is one of the latter instances.

Last night in Toronto, performance artist Jess Dobkin hosted the first-ever Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar at the Ontario College of Art and Design gallery in Toronto. Any interested passers-by were welcome to try a 3 mililitres (about 2/3 of a teaspoon) sample of pasteurized human breast milk, donated by six lactating mothers.

Quoted on, the artist (who says she herself had trouble nursing her one-year old daughter) said her intent was not to stir up controversy, but to “create an environment that’s welcoming, and I welcome people’s interest and curiousity.”

While I must admit my first reaction was “Ick!!”, I do like the idea of opening up the conversation. I was incredibly curious about breastmilk and nursing before I had kids of my own, but was shy about asking any of my lactating friends anything but the most cursory questions. When considering future parenthood, the idea of nursing was always something I strongly believed in but was more than a little freaked out by.

What I can’t imagine is drinking, or even tasting, anybody else’s breast milk. For reasons I’m not sure of, the idea disturbs me on a fundamental level. I had no problem tasting my own milk (I’ve always thought that episode of Friends, where one of them said it tastes like canteloupe, was right on the money), and the boys seemed to enjoy it. After an exhausting, frustrating, and painful start (both times) I nursed Tristan for 10 months and Simon for more than 16 months.

Despite the artist’s intention, the Lactation Station performance has stirred up more than a bit of controversy. Last month, there was an outcry when news broke that the exhibit would be the recipient of a $9,000 grand from the Canada Council for the Arts. Yesterday, the performance prompted Health Canada to issue an advisory about the dangers of buying human breast milk over the Internet or directly from individuals, as breast milk can transmit HIV and other viruses, alcohol, bacteria and other pathogens.

In the end, I give kudos to anyone who encourages thoughtful debate on something as important, and yet often still taboo, as nursing. But I think I’ll pass on my free sample, thanks.

What do you think?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 yvonne July 14, 2006 at 2:13 pm

how did the ultrasound go?

2 Myra July 14, 2006 at 4:23 pm

I’ll see your triple ick and raise you a double full-body shiver and a yucky-cough-syrup-taste face.
As a mother of two who breastfed for over 4 years combined, I am all for the support and promotion of breastfeeding… I just question this particular vehicle in achieving that purpose.
The government grants money for the arts (and of that I am mostly glad) but how much do they grant for the education, promotion and support of breastfeeding in Canadian society?
*a pin drops*
Suffice it to say I’d rather see that money go to a program or programs more directly related to doing just that.

3 mamaloo July 14, 2006 at 5:11 pm

I think it’s wonderful.
The installation was talked about on our local morning show and my husband tells me that the host kept “shivering” and making spitting motions. I’m proud to say my husband was angered by the host’s reaction.
I’m hoping a lot of people will have to confront the fact that milk from humans for humans is cringe inducing but stealing the milk of another species is encouraged.
And, I just thought I’d bring up the fact that arguments such as “money would be better spent on breastfeeding support” are rather silly. The Arts Council grant money is for art. Health Canada funds go for funding health initiatives and never the twain shall meet. So, this use of Arts Council money` is a great idea because already, folks are talking about how much more support breastfeeding women require.

4 Casey July 14, 2006 at 8:06 pm

Yeah, I have to agree that it’s a little weird that people get so worked up over tasting human milk, but they’ll happily guzzle juice squirted out of a cow’s udder. Okaaay.
That being said, I probably wouldn’t taste someone else’s breast milk. I’ve tasted my own. Best durn breast milk east of the Mississippi! Mmm-mmm.

5 Anonymous July 14, 2006 at 8:31 pm

It kinda grosses me out to try some one else breast milk. Have no clue why it just does.
Funny It shouldn’t we drink milke form cows and they are Mammals to, like us and it’s because we think therefore we are too good for this?
BUT hey if your willing to try it go for it. Just heed the warnings.

6 BeachMama July 14, 2006 at 9:51 pm

The idea of drinking someone else’s breast milk gives me the heebies, but I was all for trying my own. I did not feed J a thing that I have never tasted.
As far as the grant goes, art is art and although I don’t always agree with the way some of the grants are handed out, good for her for receiving one and getting attention for breast feeding. We still have a long way to go for breast feeding to be accepted everywhere.

7 kris July 15, 2006 at 2:19 am

I wish I’d thought of a $$ raising scheme like that when I was breastfeeding! It’s *art*!
I can’t imagine tasting someone else’s breastmilk, though I’ve certainly tasted my own and once used it for coffee when I ran out of skim. Didn’t work well–but it was better than black coffee. I’ve used formula for coffee as well, come to think of it. If I remember correctly, that was even less satisfying.
Well, that’s more than you needed to know about my poor shopping habits and caffeine-deprived desperate acts.

8 jo(e) July 15, 2006 at 12:29 pm

I think it does say something — the sort of gut-level revulsion people have to the idea of taking a sip of breastmilk. I mean, it really doesn’t make sense. Most people will happily drink milk from a cow they have never met.
I used to always have a supply of frozen breastmilk in my freezer, and a few times when I was babysitting my nephew, I gave him bottles of my breastmilk. (My sister was from out of town and hadn’t brought any bottles of her own breastmilk with her, and it made sense to both of us that she should just borrow a bottle from my freezer.) What’s funny is how people react when they hear that story — like we were doing something incestuous. I think that perhaps is the problem. We have so sexualized the breast that breastmilk is seen as something sexual, rather than as food.
Anyhow, I do like the way an art exhbit made us think about these issues. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about art — it prompts these sort of conversations.

9 andrea from the fishbowl July 15, 2006 at 2:08 pm

I think people are grossed out by the idea of drinking other people’s breast milk because – let’s face it – it’s someone else’s personal, um, juice. It’s an intimate thing. And it’s an intimate act. Breast milk is really only drunk by babies, and it’s dispensed by their own mothers. No one else is involved.
I wouldn’t try someone else’s milk. Just like I wouldn’t kiss a stranger full on the mouth.
And what I do like about this kind of art installation is that it forces us to ask these questions. Here we are, talking about it. Isn’t that great?

10 Lucina July 17, 2006 at 7:03 am

I thought it was intensely cool. I tried the milk, and I blogged about it here:

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