1st Edition

Banking on Milk An Ethnography of Donor Human Milk Relations

By Tanya Cassidy, Fiona Dykes Copyright 2019
    148 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    146 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Banking on Milk takes the reader on a journey through the everyday life of donor human milk banking across the United Kingdom (UK) and beyond, asking questions such as the following: Why do people decide to donate? How do parents of recipients hear about human milk? How does milk donation impact on lifestyle choices?

    Chapters record the practical everyday reality of work in a milk bank by drawing on extensive ethnographic observations and sensitive interview data from donors, mothers of recipients and the staff of four different milk banks from across the UK, and visits to milk banks across Europe and North America. It discusses the ongoing pressures to do with supply, demand and distribution. An empirically informed "ethnography of the contemporary", where both biosociality and biopower abound, this book includes an exploration of how milk banks evolved from registering wet nurses with hospitals, showing how a regulatory culture of medical authority began to quantify and organize human milk as a commodity.

    This book is a valuable read for all those with an interest in breastfeeding or organ and tissue donation from a range of fields, including midwifery, sociology, anthropology, geography, cultural studies and public health.


    1. Ethnography of Exchanging Human Milk In The Contemporary World

    2. Moving Hospital Wetnurses To Bureaus and Banks

    3. Building the Science and Society Of Human Milk With Banks with Bernard P. Mahon

    4. "It’s Not Rocket Science": Practice and Policy in Human Milk Banking

    5. Pumping for Preemies

    6. Building Liquid Bridges

    Endword by Tanya Cassidy


    Tanya Maria Cassidy is a Fulbright-HRB (Irish Health Research Board) Health Impact Scholar, an EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska Curie Award (MSCA) fellow and an Irish Health Research Board Cochrane Fellow. She is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) where she held her MSCA. 

    Fiona Clare Dykes is Professor of Maternal and Infant Health and leads the Maternal and Infant Nutrition and Nurture Unit (MAINN), University of Central Lancashire. She is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and holds Visiting Professorships at Högskolan, Dalarna, Sweden and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

    Bernard Mahon is Professor of Immunology and Cell Biology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth (Maynooth University). Currently, he is collaborating with a European consortium examining immunological crosstalk between mother and neonate, and scientific aspects of human milk exchange. He is a former chairperson of the Maynooth University Research Ethics Review Board.