China's Powdered Milk Scandal
Staff members of a local quality supervision bureau empty tainted milk-powder packets at a dump site in Shenzhen in the Guangdong province of China Sept. 19, 2008. Reuters

While tainted powdered milk still plagues China’s markets, leaving many parents struggling to safely feed their children, some adults are splurging on human breast milk -- for themselves. Chinese media is reporting a new trend in some areas of the country, including in the southern city of Shenzhen, where adults are hiring wet nurses to provide breast milk for “nourishment.”

According to a report by Chinese publication Southern Metropolis Daily, an increasing amount of adults are employing wet nurses not to feed their children, but for their own consumption. The trend has become popular enough that the company, Guangdong-based Xinxinyu Household Service Company, announced that its promotional strategy is expanding from babies to adults.

“Clients can choose to consume breast milk directly through breastfeeding … but they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel uncomfortable,” Lin Jun, the manager of Xinxinyu, told the local newspaper. Lin explained that human breast milk had become popular among the area's wealthy and those who have high-pressure jobs, and in turn have poor health. “Consuming human breast milk is quite popular among my social circle … spending 10,000 to 20,000 yuan [roughly $1,630 to $3,260] hiring a wet nurse is not uncommon at all,” an unnamed client told the paper.

“Quite a few of our clients hire in-house wet nurses to ensure a supply of fresh breast milk on a daily basis,” Lin said. Getting your daily dose of fresh milk comes at a price, roughly 16,000 yuan, or just over $2,600, a month. However, the paper also said that younger and a more attractive wet nurses can earn even more, adding, “wet nurses rarely raise objections as long as the price is right.”

According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the services provided by Xinxinyu Household Service Company aren’t as openly advertised as previously thought. When asking for a comment, an anonymous spokesperson for the company said that the report by the Southern Metropolis Daily was entirely false, saying the company's services have never included recommending wet nurses. The representative said that the reports were slanderous and were attempts at driving the company out of business.

Still, Xinxinyu’s advertising campaigns suggest that there is truth to reports of hirable wet nurses. The SCMP says that a number of marketing websites feature advertisements from Xinxinyu promoting the services of their wet nurses, among other things. Specifically, the advertisements also say that the company’s wet nurses can provide services to adults in poor health.