It started with a bleary-eyed Google search: “Sell breast milk.” Desiree Espinoza had a 2-month-old baby girl but was pumping out enough milk to feed triplets. Ziplock baggies full of the stuff were crammed in her freezer, and unpaid bills crowded her kitchen table. She wasn’t sure there was a market for her overflow or whether selling it was even legal. A few clicks later, she found herself on a website called Only the Breast.
The site looks a lot like craigslist, except instead of selling used cars and like-new Ikea furniture, Only the Breast deals in human breast milk. There are hundreds of posts from new mothers eager to turn their surplus into profits. Many kick off with a chirpy headline (“Chubby baby milk machine!”), then follow with a snapshot of their own robust infant and lush descriptions (“rich, creamy breast milk!” “fresh and fatty!”), making a primal source of nutrition sound like a New York cheesecake. The posts are additionally categorized to appeal to a variety of milk seekers, based on a baby’s age (from 0 to 12 months), say, or special dietary restrictions (dairy- and gluten-free). There’s also a sort of “anything goes” section for women willing to sell to men. Some ship coolers of frozen milk packed in dry ice. Others deal locally, meeting in cafés to exchange cash for commodity. The asking price on Only the Breast runs $1 to $2.50 an ounce. (A 6-month-old baby consumes about 30 ounces a day.)
Intrigued, Espinoza tapped out her sales pitch: “Mostly organic raised breast milk. I have over 500 oz saved and I need to get rid of it. During the week I only eat organic.” A few days later, she was in business, selling the milk at $2 an ounce to a couple of customers in the Phoenix area where she lives, including a mother with a newborn and a man who claimed breast milk helped his immune disorder. “There’s no way I could get a job with an infant, so this helps pay for diapers and clothes,” she says. In three months, the 19-year-old college student earned enough to buy a new laptop and the dress she wore to her wedding to the baby’s 22-year-old father, a recent college grad. She plans to continue selling for a year, and if she can pump a steady 30 ounces a day, she could take in about $20,000.