Suspect Bodies, Suspect Milk: Milk Sharing, Wetnursing, and the Specter of Syphilis in the Twenty-First Century

  • Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster
  • Shannon K. Carter


Peer human milk sharing (the giving of human milk from one person to another with the intention of feeding an infant) has emerged as a controversial practice in recent years. In this chapter, we consider the contemporary phenomenon of human milk sharing and banking through the lens of nineteenth- and twentieth-century concerns about syphilis and wetnursing. We draw on ethnographic observation, qualitative survey responses, and media representations of peer breast milk sharing to construct our analysis. We identify echoes of earlier concerns with morality and milk in contemporary conversations, noting an interesting contrast between alarmist media representations of peer milk sharing and the way in which milk-sharing mothers understand the risks and realities of peer milk sharing.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster
    • 1
  • Shannon K. Carter
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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