Anthony, who lives in Queens, is an athlete, and he has a secret fuel for keeping his stamina up. A friend suggested he try it; a lot of guys he’s met at different gyms use it.
“It gives me incredible energy I don’t get from other food and drinks,” he said. Typically, he buys it online for about $2.50 an ounce, which isn’t too bad for a magic elixir — but, considering this substance is typically available free of charge, that price represents a substantial markup. Anthony does not mind; he’s happy to pay. “I always compensate the women I buy from,” he told me. “And pretty nicely, too.”
Anthony’s energy drink of choice is breast milk.
“I don’t believe in steroids or other energy supplements, none of that garbage,” he said in a phone interview. He’d been buying breast milk from his neighbor for the past year, but she stopped nursing. Now, he uses sites like Only the Breast: “I want natural stuff that’s God-given, and if it’s okay with moms looking to get rid of it, I’ll take it.”
Some men who drink breast milk, like Anthony, cite reasons of health or nutrition. Jason Nash, a 55-year-old father of four, started drinking breast milk after the birth of his first child. "It occurred to me that breast milk could be just as healthy and tasteful for adults as infants,” Nash said. “I believe it has kept me from getting sick all these years.” His wife isn’t thrilled, but doesn’t mind as long as the milk comes from a safe source. For other men (not least those in adult-nursing relationships), breast milk is a kink. “All I’ll say is it’s a fetish for me,” wrote another man, whose post on Only the Breast identified him as a "nice, harmless man in New Jersey seeking breast milk from healthy, non-smoking mom.”
Regardless of customer motivation, most national breast-milk banks reserve their milk for babies in need, leaving would-be adult consumers to use sites like Only the Breast, Eats on Feets, and Human Milk 4 Human Babies. (The sale of bodily fluids is banned on mainstream sites like eBay and Craigslist. Only the Breast co-founder Glenn Snow says while his site focuses on mothers, they "do not mind men seeking milk for health or wellness needs”; HM4HB is “donation-only and does not support the sale of human breastmilk.”) As Wired noted in 2011, the donation of breast milk isn’t regulated by the government in the same way that donations of blood, semen, or organs are — and that’s allowed the breast-milk trade to flourish “on an unprecedented scale.” Only the Breast’s founders say the number of men seeking milk online has grown since their site launched in 2010. Last summer, The Telegraph reported that drinking breast milk had become a “fad” in China among “adults with high incomes and high-pressure jobs and who suffered poor health.”
Certain studies have suggested that a compound in breast milk could help fight cancer cells, and researchers are exploring other possibilities for medical use. Mainstream medicine, though, has typically been skeptical of adults drinking breast milk. "This is quite bizarre, completely anecdotal and probably complete bunkum,” said an Oxford pharmacology professor and cancer specialist whom The Telegraph asked about adult cancer patients drinking breast milk. "It probably won't do any harm, but it's unlikely to do any good either.” And fad or not, society in general is equally suspicious. Anthony prefers not to tell people about his beverage of choice, because being “a thirtysomething-year-old man drinking breast milk makes me sound weird.” (Likewise, most of the devotees I spoke to asked to be identified by first name only.) When Sarah Murphy, a 35-year-old Westchester mother, went on Only the Breast to donate unused breast milk, the responses she received startled her. “I was shocked men were asking for my ‘nutritious milk,’” Murphy said. “It creeped me out to the extent that it made me second-guess the responses from women … I wondered whether there were even women on this thing, or just men trolling for milk.”
Buying bodily fluids from strangers online also presents some clear health risks. Last October, the New York Times reported that “64 percent of the samples from milk-sharing sites were contaminated with staph, 36 percent with strep, and almost three-quarters with other bacterial species. Seventy-four percent of the samples would have failed milk bank criteria.” Nash, for example, has been drinking breast milk for 17 years and says he’s been extra careful in the wake of the studies cited in the Times.
“I screen the producers by getting their medical records, and I meet them in person to make sure they don’t have needle marks,” Nash said of the breast milk he buys, which he drinks sometimes straight up, and sometimes with coffee. “I will not buy via mail, UPS, or FedEx.”
David, a 42-year-old Brooklyn resident, told me he first drank breast milk to help with his nausea while going through chemotherapy three years ago. The remedy was successful, and he’s been drinking breast milk ever since. He describes the taste as “sweet” and “ambrosial.” (He adds that he has a friend, Joey, who started drinking breast milk on the recommendation of a holistic-health-care practitioner. Joey hopes to cure his psoriasis.) Jan Barger, a lactation consultant, said it’s common for chemo patients to drink breast milk.
“It’s easy to digest,” she explained. “So for people struggling through chemotherapy and losing weight, breast milk can give them nutrients.”
However, Barger doubted that breast milk would offer benefits to healthy people. Since it’s designed to feed infants, she pointed out, it has a tenth of the nutrients a 200-pound man would need. When I mentioned Anthony’s breast-milk rationale, she laughed.
“Well,” she said. “We can talk ourselves into just about anything!”
Most Viewed Stories
Uber Execs Went to an Escort-Karaoke Bar in Seoul: HR Complaint
Orange Is the New Black’s Samira Wiley and Lauren Morelli Had a Funfetti-Inspired Wedding
The Girls Pregnancy Plotline Says More About Us Than It Does About Hannah Horvath
Let’s Not Call Obama Stylish Just Yet
Report: Donald and Melania Trump Don’t Sleep in the Same Bed
Why Millennial Pink Refuses to Go Away
Former Thinx Employee Accuses Miki Agrawal of Sexual Harassment
Am I Finally Done With White Guys?
Am I Cheap If I Hate Splitting the Check Equally?
The Argument for Dresses This Spring
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.