Suckling At the Teat of Life: Could Adult Breastfeeding Save Your Life?

In May 2015, a woman in New Zealand was competing in an endurance race when she became disoriented and ended up lost. She was exhausted and smartly decided to bed-down until she was rescued. This story would be uninteresting except for one thing: the woman drank her own breast milk to survive.

The mother of an infant was still producing breast milk so she was in a good position to test a breast milk survivor hypothesis. But before you decide on whether you would drink your grandma’s breast milk to survive, here are some things to consider:

Breast milk is 88% water, 7% lactose, and offers nutritional value. According to Women’sHealth, a cup of breast milk “contains 170 calories, 10 grams of fat, 16 carbs, and two grams of protein.” There also are human growth hormones. In fact, there are male bodybuilders drinking breast milk to increase muscle growth. The theory is if breast milk can help rapidly grow a baby, why not an adult?

This is an insane idea, according to Men’sHealth. There’s no science to backup the claim that breast milk would increase muscle mass for bodybuilders. Besides, the same nutrients and more can be simply obtained from a protein shake. But what if you deplete your supplies during an extended disaster and the only thing left is a glass of breast milk?

If drinking breast milk is alluring to you, or maybe not, you should use some caution. Breast milk reflects the health of the producer, which includes diseases. So diseases like HIV and hepatitis can be transmitted through breast milk. One study actually tested samples of breast milk purchased on dark sites and determined that “63% tested positive for staphylococcus, 36% for streptococcus, and three percent for salmonella.”

While you may not want to start storing breast milk purchased anonymously online, there are still options if you do not have a pregnant woman in your shelter. According to New Health Advisor, a non-pregnant woman can lactate. The hormones estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin stimulate lactation. These hormones can be activated with medication and physical stimulation.

Of course, how much breast milk a woman can produce is another consideration. There are several variables that can affect production but one of the most important factors is breast storage capacity. Meaning, manual breast pumps could help sustain production. As a woman reaches maximum capacity, she produces less milk. The number of times a day a woman must pumped to reach maximum production varies from 4–10, according to Breastfeeding USA.

So what do you think about having the means of producing breast milk to survive? This departs from conventional survival thinking but arguably is a viable option worth considering. Would you drink breast milk to survive? At the very least, having a manual breast pump in your preparation kit may just save your life.