From the mom who allegedly used breast milk in her bake-sale brownies, to the New York City chef who made cheese from his wife's breast milk, people are finding unique ways to incorporate breast milk into common recipes. Whether you find the idea novel, gross, or super-intriguing, you might wonder if cooking with breast milk is a smart, and not to mention safe, way to go. Thankfully, experts have weighed in on this growing phenomenon.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), breast milk is a great choice for feeding your baby, but like any other unpasteurized milk product, breast milk can pose a safety risk if it's not collected or handled properly, or if you don't know the health status of the person who supplied it. When it comes to cooking with your own breast milk, it might not be the best substitute for cow's milk, either. As Chef and mom Angie Anaya told Romper, differences in consistency and taste between human milk and cow's milk might pose a culinary challenge, too.
Healthline reports that most people think their breast milk tastes sweeter than cow's milk, which makes sense when you consider that according to a study published in the Egyption Journal of Hospital Medicine, human milk has considerably more sugar, and less protein, than cow's milk. As for whether or not you should cook with breast milk, ethically speaking, Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) Nurse and board certified lactation consultant Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC, told Romper via email that moms with extra breast milk should consider donating to a milk bank instead of using their milk to cook, especially since premature and ill babies in NICUs across the country rely on donated milk to thrive.
As a mom with undersupply, I never had a need to find other things to do with my breast milk beyond feeding my babies. I did, however, taste mine. It honestly reminded me of watery cantaloupe, and not of cow's milk at all. According to Healthline, most parents who've tried it describe their breast milk tasting like melted ice cream or vanilla almond milk. In other words, pretty sweet when compared to cows milk. So, while it probably wouldn’t be a good substitute for savory recipes, it might work in a dessert. Anaya adds, "I always intended to make ice cream with my breast milk, I just never got around to it. I suppose it depends on the specific application and why you're using it."
But before you start making breast milkshakes, there are other factors to consider. Namely, the fact that humans aren't cows. According to a study published in the Egyption Journal of Hospital Medicine, human milk is actually pretty different from cow's milk in terms of composition. Breast milk has about 65 percent more sugar — in the form of lactose — and 66 percent less protein than cow's milk. As Anaya told Romper via email, this could potentially screw up your recipe. "That would definitely be an obstacle in cooking, because of how different it is in each woman, and even day to day."
There's also the ick factor to contend with. The FDA recommends that you follow safety guidelines for collecting, storing, and using breast milk. It is milk, after all. They also advise against babies consuming breast milk not from their parents or a milk bank that employs screening for diseases that might be transmitted via nursing. If you want to use your own breast milk for a recipe to feed yourself or your kids, that’s one thing. It’s something else entirely, though, to use breast milk in brownies for a bake sale, as one mom claimed to do on Facebook, without alerting the consumers.
Also, Segrave-Daly adds that using breast milk to make, say, mac and cheese might not be the most ethical choice. Premature babies can really benefit from donated breast milk, especially since it can help prevent a dangerous infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). She told Romper via email, "Preemies deserve to have access to human milk because their lives depend on it. I believe we have the ethical and moral responsibility as health care professionals to educate and promote breast milk donation to a milk bank as a number one priority. Our society as a whole will save enormous healthcare dollars if just one case of NEC is prevented."
So, while breast milk is a great choice for feeding babies, breast might not be best for baking and cooking. Instead, Segrave-Daly recommends that you consider donating to a breast milk bank to make sure that at-risk babies get what they need to stay healthy.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.