Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Got Breastmilk" trademark and La Leche League International

There has been a licensing agreement between La Leche League International and the California Milk Processor Board. Well, that is what I read on Lactnet. I was truly blown away by this bit of news. There were concerns expressed on Lactnet that this was a violation of the WHO Code for Marketing Breast-Millk Substitutes. But most of the posts to Lactnet by those in the "know" assured Lactnet subscribers that this was not a violation of the WHO Code.
I am not an expert on the WHO Code. I don't think what La Leche League International (LLLI) did was a violation of the Code...technically. Ethically, morally what LLLI did is a violation of the trust mothers and fathers, leaders and members have put into an organization that advocates for breastfeeding. How can I say that?

First, one person, a lawyer on Lactnet, stated that the California Milk Processing Board is an organization of cow's milk dairy farmers. Nope, not so. The California Milk Processing Board is a nonprofit marketing board funded by the California dairy processors. Guess who the number one dairy processor is in the world? Yes, Nestle. The number one dairy processor in California seems to be Dean Foods. The top dairy processors in the world are Nestle, Dannon, Lactalis, Arla, Fonterra, Dairy Farmers of America, Kraft, and Dean (2006 stats). So we have LLLI entering into a licensing agreement with an organization that is essentially the marketing arm of the dairy giant multi-national corporations. In fact the executive director of the California Milk Processing Board in 2010 was Steve James, (who was or is still employed by Dean and Swiss Dairy which is owned by Dean).
"The Dean Foods Dairy Group Division is the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in the country."

A member of the BOD of LLLI on Lactnet stated that cow's milk is not part of the Code, just formula, bottles, and teats. Not. Cow's milk is a breast-milk substitute in my book. In fact I wrote in my blog a few years ago about a mother who evacuated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She fed her infant organic cow's milk and the baby died. She and her husband were charged with murder and are in prison for life. In areas of poverty, cow's milk is often used as a substitute for breastmilk because the cost of infant formula is so high. Infants die because of this substitute.

Lactnetters were told to email LLLI, if they wanted the full story. Good luck with that suggestion, I don't get responses from the BOD of LLLI. (of course, I am subjected to the silent treatment by alot of breastfeeding advocates) I hope if anyone gets the official story of this trademark deal that they would email the official story to me. So far the explanations seem rather poor.

Obviously, LLLI doesn't practice the Nestle Boycott or they wouldn't deal with the California Milk Processing Board. Rather ironic that a breastfeeding organization will be financially supporting the marketing organization of companies like Nestle, Dannon, Dean, etc. Isn't that like shooting oneself in the foot? And for what reason is it necessary to have the trademark, Got Breastmilk? Is La Leche League now a business entity?

I am deeply saddened. I was a La Leche League leader for 10 years. My heart and soul breathed in this organization and I treasured the moments I had with moms and babies. What has gone wrong with this organization? Are they ignorant of marketing strategies of multi-national corporations? Do they not care what others may think of this licensing agreement? What made this organization think they were dealing with dairy farmers?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain


  1. Thank you so much!

  2. Valerie, this was well written. Thank you. You are certainly not the only the who gets no response from the LLLI Board. They only respond to a select group of individuals. The board member on Lactnet is someone whose term on the board is about to end in just a few days. How odd that she spoke out on Lactnet but not to LLL Leaders on their email lists. And the attorney on Lactnet has no affiliation with LLL so it is odd that she would be seen as an expert on this topic. There are many in the LLL community who are disheartened by this turn of events. You asked, "What has gone wrong with this organization?" One would have to write a book to answer *that* question.