Alpizar F, Carlsson F, Johansson-Stenman O. Anonymity, reciprocity, and conformity: Evidence from voluntary contributions to a national park in Costa Rica. Journal of Public Economics. 2008; 92:(5-6)1047-60

Andreoni J, Rao JM, Trachtman H. Avoiding the ask: A field experiment on altruism, empathy, and charitable giving. Journal of Political Economy. 2017; 125:(3)625-53

Grant AM. Employees without a cause: The motivational effects of prosocial impact in public service. International Public Management Journal. 2008; 11:(1)48-66

Harper H, Sallis A, Sanders M. Applying behavioural insights to organ donation: Preliminary results from a randomised controlled trial.London: The Stationery Office; 2013

Horwood LJ, Darlow BA, Mogridge N. Breast milk feeding and cognitive ability at 7–8 years. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2001; 84:(1)F23-7

Huck S, Rasul I. Matched fundraising: Evidence from a natural field experiment. Journal of Public Economics. 2011; 95:(5-6)351-62

Isaacs EB, Fischl BR, Quinn BT, Chong WK, Gadian DG, Lucas A. Impact of breast milk on intelligence quotient, brain size, and white matter development. Pediatr Res. 2010; 67:(4)357-62

da Lacetera N, Macis M, Slonim R. Will there be blood? Incentives and displacement effects in pro-social behavior. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 2012; 4:(1)186-223

Mom donates 14 gallons of breast milk to NICU babies in need. 2018. (accessed 15 May 2018)

Lucas A, Cole TJ. Breast milk and neonatal necrotising enterocolitis. Lancet. 1990; 336:(8730)1519-23

Meer J. Brother, can you spare a dime? Peer pressure in charitable solicitation. Journal of Public Economics. 2011; 95:(7-8)926-41

Peacey MW, Sanders M. Masked Heroes: endogenous anonymity in charitable giving.Bristol: Centre for Market and Public Organisation; 2014

Star Power: Two field experiments investigating the effect of celebrity endorsement on charitable fundraising campaigns. 2015. (accessed 14 May 2018)

Small DA, Loewenstein G, Slovic P. Sympathy and callousness: The impact of deliberative thought on donations to identifiable and statistical victims. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 2007; 102:(2)143-53

Smith S, Windmeijer F, Wright E. Peer effects in charitable giving: Evidence from the (running) field. The Economic Journal. 2015; 125:(585)1053-71

Breast milk donation and behavioural science

02 June 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 6


What makes us give our money, our time or our possessions to those in need? After his son received an important donation, Michael Sanders began to examine the altrusim behind breast milk banking

If you had told me a year ago that I would be sat here, now, writing to midwives about breast milk, I would have been incredulous. As an economist, working in and around government for more than half a decade, I have written about everything from voter registration to antimicrobial resistance, tax compliance, and giving investment bankers sweets. Having graduated in the middle of the financial crisis, however, I've always tried to stick to my brief: talk about the numbers. If 2008 taught us nothing else, it should have been that economists are at their worst when they're trying (ill-advisedly) to teach their grandmothers to suck eggs. I hope I have steered clear of this so far, yet here I am, writing to midwives about breast milk. How did this happen?

My son, Teddy, was born on 13 March this year. The birth was neither straightforward, nor especially complicated in clinical terms. Significant meconium in the waters meant that giving birth in the midwife-led unit was off the cards from the outset. Transverse shoulders led to forceps, an episiotomy, and a third degree tear, which in turn led to surgery. I have friends and colleagues—people whose stories are not mine to tell—who have had far more traumatic, and far simpler, births than this. Being born at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford at 9.15 pm (just after a shift change), meant that we had a midwife and two student midwives in the room, as well as two doctors to help with the birth and a paediatrician in case of complications from the meconium. I have never felt so looked after by the NHS (in the interests of full disclosure, one of the student midwives was temporarily diverted after my son was born by helping me sit down before I fainted).

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month