Got Milk? Chinese Crisis Creates A Market for Human Alternatives

The Wall Street Journal reports on the rise of the use of wet nurses as parents shun milk powder for their babies in the wake of the contamination crisis:

As Chinese parents panic about the tainted milk — which authorities now admit began in late 2007 — that has killed four and sickened more than 53,000 children, the fallout is breathing new life into an ancient profession. Wages for Chinese wet nurses, who post online ads and sign up at housework agencies around the country, have doubled since the milk crisis began on Sept. 12. They now run as high as 18,000 yuan a month.

On Tuesday in a residential Shenzhen neighborhood, six new mothers showed up looking for work at Zhong Jia Family Services Co., which serves as a broker for maids and, increasingly, women like Ms. Huang. “I’ve been working in this industry for over 10 years, and never seen such a craze for wet nurses,” says Ai Xiaoxiong, the company’s manager. Since Friday, Mr. Ai has registered 260 available women and found employment for 20.

[…] Breast-feeding is on the decline in China, where commercial formulas are heavily marketed. According to China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of poor rural women who breast-feed slipped to 38% in 2005 from 62% in 2000. The reasons for the decline vary, but many people appear to believe that formula is somehow better for their children. Among some wealthier families, a busy lifestyle gets in the way.

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