Friday, July 14, 2006


The Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar

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 canada.com, 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?