What about those alternatives to breastmilk?

Ever heard a barista mutter under his breath when hes asked for a half strength, decaf, soy latte? Finding your way through the maze of alternative food and drink options for babies is a bit like that!

Go figure – if babies couldnt go from breast to family food without high tech, potentially harmful, difficult-to-source or expensive solutions, do you think the population on this planet would now number 8 billion?

Make it easy on yourself – youve got it constantly on tap, its an unlimited supply, always at the right temperature, bound to please even the fussiest customer, with benefits that far outstrip any of its competitors and its free!

If you had a money-bearing tree in your backyard, that knew no seasons and whose crop was constantly replenished, would you go to the bank, struggle to get a loan approved, be subject to the vagaries of interest rates and lock yourself into debt for the rest of your life, leaving the unpicked money at home on your tree?

What about breastmilk for premies?
Well now Melbourne has a milk bank! The powers-that-be have recognised that theres nothing better than mothers milk for premie babies (or for that matter, for babies of any age!). While Im all for sharing Natures bounty and Mums who are in good health and successfully breastfeeding their own offspring will have no issues donating to this important and long-overdue resource, there are questions I cant help but ask.

Where is the milk from the mothers of these tiny babies going (only those premies under 32 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1500g will qualify for access to stored milk)? After all, the milk from a Mum who has given birth prematurely differs in composition from the breastmilk of a woman who has given birth at term! Surprise, surprise that milk is ideally suited to her premie baby! Why arent those women the primary donors of milk for their own babies?

And why oh why do we have to undo any benefits with our obsession with sterility and high tech treatments. “Mothers of babies under the age of six months will be able to donate surplus milk, which will be screened, pasteurised and stored for up to three months before being thawed for its recipients.” Anyone wonder how the human race survived wet-nursing and Mums in extended families offering a breast to somebody elses Bub? What vitamins, co-factors, enzymes, antibodies and hormones are destroyed in the screening, pasteurizing, freezing and storing processes? Its exactly the same damage that the dairy industry inflicts on the raw, health-promoting product when they convert it to the poor substitute that masquerades in cardboard cartons under the name of milk.

Next thing well have some mis-guided study telling us that the premies getting human milk from the milk bank do no better than the bottle fed infants.

And what about breastmilk as culinary experience?
On a recent Lifestyle program I watched a renowned Sydney pâtissier create his signature macarons with a hamburger flavour. Not my cup of tea since I certainly dont associate my macaron treats with meat, but then theres no accounting for some folks tastes. These days in the world of celebrity chefs, the weirder the better as anyone who has followed the rise and rise of Ferran Adrias Barcelona restaurant elBulli or Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck in the UK will attest.

But if Blumenthal set new standards in a country formerly undistinguished in the culinary stakes I reckon the latest from the Icrecreamists restaurant in Londons Covent Garden, would take the cake (pardon the pun)!

Their new pièce de résistance is breast milk ice cream! At a whopping £14 ($22) a serving, consumers are being encouraged to think of the “Baby Gaga” as an organic, free-range treat! Donated breast milk, Madagascan vanilla pods and lemon zest go into the churn for this little number!

If the breast milk doesnt go through the pasteurization process, said ice-cream might even deliver some health benefits as well as being a certified taste sensation.  Those benefits, now available to a curious public are something that the screened, pasteurized, frozen and stored breastmilk, destined for very premie babies would be unlikely to deliver!

My recommendations?

Breast milk ad lib night and day for as long as your child wants it. Solids only when hes reaching for food from your plate. Weaning – ask an expert – only three year olds need apply!