This paper explores how online networks (re) construct caring and nurturing practices of the family through the shaping of the female body as a body that produces human milk in ways that resemble old and gendered forms of labor and creates new ones. Through the analysis of three online communities of breastmilk exchange that afford both ease, access, and opportunity (Eats on Feets Facebook Groups, Facebook Market, and OnlyTheBreast.com), this essay explores how digital networks together with the technology of the breast pump and apps that keep track of breastmilk production, mobilize the female body and its milk into objects that are sometimes exchanged as commodities and others, as commerce-free pieces of labor in an era of economic relations led by the gig economy and augmented by digital platforms.
This paper studies the different elements that play a role in the exchange of breastmilk in families that sell, donate, buy or acquire breastmilk through online networks. These elements include features of the platform, type of users, network’s guidelines and values, safety measures, post content, price of the exchange, type of commitment, motivations for the exchange, and family dynamics. What opportunities for families is the online exchange of breastmilk bringing? How is that shaping, transforming, or imitating family life? What inequalities and power dynamics are being exposed and reshaped? The essay is not only putting three different sites/networks of breast milk dissemination in tension while exploring these questions, but by extension, it also shows the difference between a mutual aid social network and a commercial gig economy site as spaces embedded in family life. The paper illustrates that tension and difference, which becomes clear through the juxtaposition.