Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Supplementing breast milk: Deficiency or Delusion?

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."  Martin Luther King, Jr.

I heard the calls of the Red Shouldered Hawks that live down the road.  They have lived here as long as I have or so I like to believe.  Maybe they are descendants of the original pair.  But they seem to be arguing politics lately in loud, raucous voices that carry in the wind entangling me in their drama.  Today they are riding the wind, yelling at their newest baby who is flying like a bat out of hell.  Watching momma and poppa chasing this baby reminded me of the days not so long ago, when my little ones ran ahead of me.  The toddlers ran without fear, headlong and fast into the unknown.  And, we the adults ran after them, trying to keep up.  Fearful, ever fearful, scared that my treasured babies are too naive to run so fast.  Into the future they run without fear, soaring and singing their songs.  I stand back, breathless and tired and admire their strength and courage.  The pair of hawks seem to be yelling at their baby to stop but their little one throttles forward moving faster and faster like a race horse out of the starting gate. 

It was fun watching the Hawk family and wishfully making their behavior relevant to me.  Pure escapism on my part because the world appears to be getting more and more troubling.  I am feeling fearful for the future, my children and grandchildren.  I have always kept that fear on the back burner of my mind.  Yet that fear, that darkness that seems to be enveloping our world seems to be growing.  I wonder whether insanity is contagious?  Greed and hate and more greed and hate.  The sad history of humanity with brief moments of peace and loving kindness.  

Breastfeeding advocacy has been so much a part of my life energy that it is upsetting to see it being infected by profits. patenting and distorted science.  When human milk science plays to the tune of corporate values, then it creates the victimization of women.  Not that, we as women find anything new about being victims.  Its that I believe women are tired of being victims. 

For example, the other day I read in Breastfeeding Medicine an article dated in January of last year, "Relationships of Maternal Stress with Milk Immune Components in African American Mothers of Healthy Term Infants."  (funded partly by Medela) After reading it, I was appalled.  Why?  The authors state that, "race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status were associated with increased stress and health disparities."  And, "Historically African American have been at risk for health disparities; however recent evidence suggests that chronic stress may also play a role in health disparities such as hypertension, diabetes, and adverse birth outcomes."  They mention that African American infants have the highest infant mortality rate and lowest breastfeeding initiation rates.

The authors decided to measure cortisol levels as an indication of stress. They would take breast milk and saliva collections (measuring cortisol levels) on Day3, 9, and 14 post delivery.  The collection of breast milk was to monitor MIC (Milk Immune Components):  IgA, milk cytokines, chemokines and growth factors.  The instructions for mothers regarding these collections were amazing.  For example with the saliva samples; it was to be done upon awakening, 30 minutes after awakening, and 60 minutes after awaking.  No food or drink 30 minutes prior to collecting the saliva.  With breast milk collection they were to collect 1 tsp of hind milk using either hand expression or breast pump.  Samples were to be frozen and mothers had to transport those samples to the principle investigator.  Mothers had to do a self report survey on physical and environmental stressors in their life.  These mothers were recovering from childbirth (34% of the mothers had c-sections and were on antibiotics), taking care of their babies and then having to fill out questionnaires, pump-obtain hind milk, saliva collections, no food or drink prior to the saliva collections.  Are the researchers kidding?  How to stress out moms that were already stressed out?  I find this ethically irresponsible.  Not surprising that many moms weaned or did not do the samples.  I remember after my first baby and how difficult it was to even eat or go to the bathroom and I didn't have a c-section.  The whole concept of interfering with moms and their babies time together in the first weeks postpartum is just wrong.  But to do this specifically with African American moms and babies who are at the most risk for stress and health disparities seems unethical. Mothers who returned all the surveys and milk and saliva collections received a $25 gift card.  I suppose that represents 3 hours of work for minimum wage.  It seems small compensation for such interference.

Of course, what makes this whole study more upsetting is that one of the authors, Maureen Groer is a listed inventor to patent #9345249 entitled, "Method of supplementing cytokine, chemokine and growth factors in donor human milk." filed 6 months before the above study.  The study stated that there was no competing financial interests.  So having a patent is not considered a financial interest?  The patent is owned by the University of South Florida and it is probably available for licensing.

The patent states the problem of pasteurization of donor milk (Holder method) which is thought to "destroy the immune properties in milk and denature many other proteins."  The patent proposes to supplement donor milk with chemokines, cytokines and growth factors.  For this patent  they boldly state that donor milk was provided from a single non-profit milk bank in Northern Texas. Since this particular research had government funding, the US government has certain rights to the invention.

Inventor and researcher, Maureen Groer, was quoted in the Tampa Bay Times in January of 2014 in regard to the media blitz about unsafe milk sharing over the internet.  According to the article she stated, "Breast milk sold over the Internet is creating a very dangerous situation."  

I wonder which is more dangerous?  Breast milk sold over the Internet or patenting to create a "better" donor milk?  Is this about controlling a natural resource or safety? Who wins and who loses in the drive to create a better donor milk?  Who are we sacrificing on the altar of invention?
Copyright 2017 Valerie W. McClain


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Fallacies of "Fed Is Best" and "I Support You" PR Campaigns

"When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace.  And "propaganda" got to be a bad word because of the Germans using it, so what I did was to try and find some other words so we found the words "public relations."  by Edward Bernays, the father of public relations

The falling star streaked across the sky; and my brain wondered whether I had really seen it or was I just looking for magic in the night sky?  Did my neighbor see the falling star?  Or was this just a moment in time that I, alone, observed it?  I thought of the night sky in Arizona, where falling stars were part of the night-time landscape.  But here in Florida, falling stars are a treat, not a common occurrence.  Night-time lighting which blocks our view of the sky has certainly changed our world and our perceptions of life on this planet.  Years ago, my brother told me about his summer job of camp counselor for inner city boys and girls of Philadelphia.  The camp was out in the woods, far away from city lights and traffic.  He said he was amazed that many of the very street-wise and tough-acting children of the inner city were full of fear of the darkness at nightfall.  I was amazed as he was, because my brother and I had so much fun camping and our family even lived in the middle of the woods in Northern Ontario for a few years.  So our experience and our fears as children were so different from the children living in a inner city environment. 

It is hard to understand other people whose experience and fears are different from our own.  Their fears are not our fears.  Their experiences give them a different reality from ours.  We can scorn and ridicule their fears but that doesn't give us a bridge to further understanding of other human beings on this planet.  There are many examples in our lives of how divisive society can be, when our reality clashes with other people's reality.  

Infant feeding decisions is one of those examples of a clash of realities.  We are a society of conflicting opinions and realities regarding breastfeeding and bottlefeeding.  But what is of concern to me is the use of propaganda, PR and social marketing techniques in this clash of realities.  Is this just an ideological battle or is an industry using its power and monies to promote their reality?

This appears to me to be both an ideological battle of different viewpoints and the PR work of the infant formula industry.  We have media campaigns pushing back against the "breastfeeding is best" slogan used in the social marketing of breastfeeding.  "Fed is best" is the slogan used to counter "breastfeeding is best." We also have another campaign slogan called, "I support you."  The intent of the "I Support You," campaign is about giving support to both breastfeeding and infant formula feeding mothers. Yet the criticism of the I Support You campaign appears to be only directed at breastfeeding advocacy.

The "I Support You" campaign was founded by Suzanne Barstow, the Fearless Formula Feeder blogger, who is also a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor- a week long educational course on breastfeeding with a final exam at end).  My impression is that Suzanne Barstow is a supporter and promoter of infant formula and I have written about her promoting the use of Similac coupons, etc.

Her campaign got support from some breastfeeding advocates.  The Best for Babes Foundation seemed somewhat supportive of this campaign.  One of their credos is, "All moms deserve to make a truly informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached ad celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt."  The presumption of this credo is that it is possible to have a "truly informed feeding decision" in our society.  And the other presumption is that breastfeeding advocacy spreads guilt, judgment and pressure to breastfeed.  The Best for Babes Foundation is also very supportive of breastfeeding but they do accept a  belief  that "informed feeding decisions" can be made in our society.  I, on the other hand, have to question that premise because the infant formula industry through propaganda and advertising has created a bottlefeeding reality.  Its influence in the medical professions and in infant feeding research is legendary. After all the bottle has been the symbolic representation of baby or babyhood.  Escape from the societal mindset that infant formula is the default feeding program and that breastfeeding can be regimented like bottlefeeding is next to impossibleThe infant formula industry through its patents shows us that the industry has been selling an inferior product over the years.  They recognize the problems of their formulas and will solve the problems with various human milk components.  The public usually hasn't a clue about what the industry is doing other than the smoke and mirrors of the industry's PR.  So while many breastfeeding advocates may believe that informed choice exists in the US, the reality is that even breastfeeding advocates are clueless about what is in that can of formulaSo informed choice exists in what world Here is a few patents to look at that are owned by different formula companies.  What do we really know as consumers and what does the industry know?  

For example, Abbott Labs patent #9539269 filed in 2011 entitled, "Methods for decreasing the incidence of necrotizing entercolitis in infants, toddlers or children using human milk oligosaccharides."  Abbott will use human milk oligosaccharides (a prebiotic) in their formulas to decrease the risk of necrotizing entercolitis (NEC) which can be a deadly infection in infants, particularly premature infants. NEC is a risk factor when infants/preterm infants are given infant formula.  

A Nestle patent (#9498502) filed in 2010 called, "Prevention and treatment of allergic diarrhea."  From the patent, "...the present inventors have discovered that a particular strain of Bifidobacterium breve originally isolated from human milk, B. breve CNCMI-3865 (NCC2950) is highly effective in the prevention and treatment of allergic diarrhoea."  In the patent the inventors state that diarrhea is the second most common cause of infant mortality worldwide and that it causes 5 million deaths worldwide to children under 5 years of age.

How about a Mead Johnson patent (#9089157) filed in 2013 using human milk oligosaccharides (prebiotics) to inactivate Cronobacter sakazakii entitled, "Adherence inhibition of pathogens by prebiotic oligosaccharides."  A quote from the patent, 

"Cronobacter sakazakii(also called Enterobacter sakazakii) is a motile, petrichious, non-sporeforming, gram negative facultative anaerobe. It is an opportunistic pathogen that has been implicated in severe forms of meningitis, necrotizing entercolitis and sepsis in infants.  Although the environmental source of the microorganism in unknown, powdered infant formula has been implicated in several outbreaks...Of particular concern are reports of the organism being isolated from powdered milk processing plants and hospital utensils such as spoons and other implements used to prepare infant formula."

The fatality rate for infants that contract a Cronobacter Sakazakii infection has been estimated to be between 40-80 per cent.  And the CDC estimates that we have an average of 6 cases per year and this maybe an underestimation since there is only one state in the USA that has made this infection a reportable disease.  Yet the public believes that infant formula is only a risk in developing nations?   

Meanwhile I read in the blog, Momivist, that exclusive breastfeeding can cause life long disabilities.  The blog is written by Jody Segrave-Daly RN, MS, IBCLC, one of the founders of Fed is Best Foundation.  She states, "Every year in the US, approximately 60,000 newborns are readmitted back to the hospital for unforeseen complications from exclusive breastfeeding and insufficient intake."  No footnote of where this statistic comes from other than 2 references at the end of the article.  Both references lead back the Fed Is Best Foundation.  With the last reference having a paper written in the Journal of Pediatrics entitled, "Recommendations from the Pediatric Endocrine Society for Evaluation and Management of Persistent Hypoglycemia in Neonates, Infants, and Children," published in 2015.  I found no mention of exclusive breastfeeding in this paper and this paper had a chart entitled, "Recognizing and managing neonates at increased risk for a persistent hypoglycemia disorder."  No mention of exclusive breastfeeding as a risk factor nor any statement about the 60,000 newborns readmitted due to exclusive breastfeeding and insufficient intake. 

The mission of Fed is Best Foundation is laudable.  Who would argue against saving babies from brain damage caused by insufficient intake (hypoglycemia)? 
The question is where is the research behind the belief that exclusive breastfeeding is the cause of insufficient intake?  No published research that I have seen.  So this appears to me to be a hypothesis by the founders of this private Foundation.

Both founders of this Foundation are or were employed in hospitals. Jody Segrave-Daly is an RN and IBCLC working in a NICU (neonatal nurse specialist) and Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi is adjunct faculty member in the Department of Emergency Medicine in the University of Arkansas and a practicing American Board of Emergency Medicine-certified physician.  She states she has a background in newborn brain injury research at Brown University.  And she states that her child has autism due to newborn jaundice due to insufficient milk intake from delayed milk production.

They both have a medical perspective of this issue. What they see is through the eye of a medical system that has very little faith in breastfeeding which cannot be measured and seen.  Jody Segrave-Daly states in her Momivist blog, "As a veteran NICU, nursery nurse and IBCLC, I have taken care of and fed thousands of babies over the years."  Feeding babies is what a nursery nurse does because babies are separated from their mothers.  This task maybe a requirement of the job in a NICU but it is not part of the task of an IBCLCAnd expertise in feeding babies other than our own, helps in a NICU job but it is an endeavor that changes a person's vision of the reality of breastfeeding.  Jody Segrave-Daly supports pre-lacteal feedings as "usual and customary all over the world." She asks, "how can supplementation destroy breastfeeding?"  And then answers that it doesn't.  She seems unaware of evidence to the contrary or that this behavior may not destroy breastfeeding but it certainly changes the newborn's gut and with that impacts an infant's immune system.

Only seeing bottlefeeding and only seeing the worse case scenarios in hospitals impacts what a person believes to be true.  It's why labor and delivery nurses (in general) have the most difficult births and complications.  And even midwives have more difficult births.  I remember reading a medical book on symptoms of disease and by the time I finished the book I was sure I had every disease in that book.  The sad state of affairs in the USA is that most OB/Gyns have never seen a normal birth.  And I would say that the same could be said about breastfeeding and that doctors and IBCLCs who are medically trained rarely see normal breastfeeding in the early days in which babies do fine with exclusive breastfeeding. 

The biggest fear that new breastfeeding mothers have is that they cannot produce enough milk.  This FEAR has created the very low percentage of women exclusively breastfeeding their babies.  How many women are actually exclusively breastfeeding their babies in the newborn period?  Where is the data?  How do we define exclusive breastfeeding?  What is the impact of "mandatory"IVs for laboring moms on newborn weight loss?  New studies now believe that IVs cause significant weight loss in newborns (dependent on amount and timing of IVs).  How do these dextrose and salt solutions given to mom impact the baby in utero in the stages of being born?  Readmittance to hospitals is more common in preterm infants for feeding problems and jaundice. Why?  Do we send home preterm babies with mothers who want to breastfeed without ever having put the baby to breastSeparation of mothers and babies, even preterm infants, creates enormous physical stress on both babies and mothers.  Sometimes this cannot be avoided, but often policies in hospitals and the lack of vision regarding breastfeeding creates the side effect of insufficient milk in mothers.  Should we blame exclusive breastfeeding? Or is a viewpoint distorted?

I see the falling star, who else sees it?  The darkness of the night sky does not scare me.  I am embraced by it. It is my memory of my childhood. The city streets at night are far more scary.  If we are isolated from the reality of exclusive breastfeeding, how can we support and protect it?  
Copyright 2017 Valerie W. McClain 




Sunday, January 8, 2017


"If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it."  --Edward Bernays, "Father of the Public Relations Industry", known for getting women to smoke in the late 1920's through a public relations campaign and created the US public relations behind overthrowing the democratically elected government of Guatemala in the 1950's.
This era in history should be titled, "Dueling social media marketing on infant feeding," or, "Facebook Games on infant feeding" or maybe just, "Mind Games on infant feeding."  Edward Bernays would be proud of all you propagandists and social marketeers!  Keep the lies a'coming, baffle us with your brillance and along the way destroy everyone's faith in evidence-based science.  Truth or the honesty in educating the public no longer exists, maybe it never existed?  After the US election or should we say the coronation of the presumptive King of Entertainment, the stage managers are trying to convince the public that only certain publications are the truth-tellers for the nation.  Hm...yeah sure, whatever, whatever, whatever.

Okay infant feeding experts, lets look at the Forbes article of December 20, 2016 entitled, "Yet Another Study Claims and Fails to Show That Breastfeeding Is Best," by Kavin Senapathy.  The author critiques a recent study (Journal of Pediatrics-October 2016) entitled, "Disparities in Breastfeeding:  Impact on Maternal and Child Health Outcomes and Costs).  Senapathy singles out one of the six authors to this study, Dr. Melissa Bartick for criticism.  Why?  I am not sure why.  Senapathy seems to have a problem with researchers who feel compassion for their subjects.  Bartick had expressed concern that sub-optimal breastfeeding impacts non-Hispanic black and Hispanic families disproportionately.  The implication appears to me that Senapathy believes that scientists should set aside "sentiment" or concern for subjects in their research.  I on the other hand believe that science and scientists have to be ethical and concerned with the health and well-being of their subjects.  That concern does not lessen the science but safeguards the subjects.

Senapathy then uses her experts to critique the study.  She "reached out" to Dr. Emiliano Tatar, Dr. Amy Tuteur and Dr. Daniel Summers (formerly known as Russell Saunders).  It was the usual propaganda material that supposedly proves that breastfeeding is no better than infant formula.  Although these experts seem to agree that in the case of Necroticizing Enterocolitis-NEC, breastfeeding is better than infant formula.  

What I found most interesting about Senapathy and her experts was that they all are listed writers for the Genetic Literacy Project.  The Project was founded by Jon Entine who is also the executive director.  He is also an author and journalist.  He has written 3 books on genetics.  One is called, "Let them Eat Precaution:  How Politics is Undermining the Genetic Revolution."  (The precautionary principle is the basis of the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol of 2000 signed by 68 nations--https://www.cbd.int/doc/legal/cartagena-protocol-en.pdf

The title seems to suggest that Jon Entine believes in throwing caution to the wind in support of genetic engineering.  And not too surprising is a TruthWiki report that states that the Genetic Literacy Project is a "GMO lobbying outfit funded by Monsanto."  And they characterize Jon Entine, founder of the Genetic Literacy Project, as a media-savvy corporate propagandist and not a scientist.

Entine also wrote a book called, "Taboo:  Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It."  It was perceived by some people as a racist view of human relations. (Wikipedia on Jon Entine).

Getting back to the author, Kavin Senapathy, of the Forbes article, she has also written an article for Forbes entitled, "Beware of Accidentally Starving Your Breastfed Newborn, Warns The Fed Is Best Foundation." Monsanto Europe interviewed Kavin Senapathy in an article called "Fighting the hydra of science myths:  an interview with Kavin Senapathy."  According to the Monsanto article she is the co-Executive Director of international pro-science, pro-biotech organization March against Myths (an organization to counter March Against Monsanto).  Thus it appears that she writes for an organization that is funded by Monsanto-Genetic Literacy Project and is interviewed by Monsanto Europe.  And the experts she uses in her article are also writers for the Monsanto-funded Genetic Literacy Project:  Dr. Amy Tuteur, Dr. Emiliano Tatar and Dr. Daniel Summers aka Russell Saunders.

So why is Monsanto using these writers to create public doubt about the value of breastfeeding?  Maybe its because the infant formula that is on the market is composed of genetically engineered ingredients from dairy milk or soy proteins to the vitamins and minerals, the DHA/ARA.  Infant formula is a package of gmos.  If more women exclusively breastfeed, will Monsanto financially survive?  If more black women exclusively breastfeed, what will Monsanto do to survive?  

When I started to think about writing this post, I thought I would use the patents to show these people the evidence of how valuable breastfeeding is and how even the infant formula industry considers its own product a risk. These patents are legal documents.  The industry knows the truth.  But these propagandists that have the public ear, have no interest in the truth.  Their bread and butter is made by disseminating doubt about breastfeeding.     
Copyright 2017 Valerie W. McClain