Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Breastmilk feeding or breastfeeding?
After reading, "Liquid Gold: The Booming Market for Human Breast Milk," by Judy Dutton; I felt the need to give the article a review.
This article leads the reader to believe that there is a booming market, a new "niche industry," of breastmilk. The author interviews a mom who sells her milk on a website called, Only the Breast. The website has bottles placed strategically about the website. The picture on the header is of a baby with a bottle in its mouth-no mother in sight. So a baby that self-feeds. My God, they are better at marketing than the infant formula industry. This particular milk sharing industry doesn't have to follow the WHO Code cause they are buying and selling breastmilk not infant formula. (although I believe that the WHO Code applies to them because it is another alternative to breastfeeding and the intention of the WHO Code was to support breastfeeding not breastmilk in a bottle) The author does mention other internet breastmilk sharing organizations: Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets. Yet we aren't given statistics regarding these internet milk sharing organizations. How many moms are actually sharing breastmilk through these sites? How many queries in a day?
Part way through the article that extolls the "magic" of breastmilk. The author interviews, a J. Bruce German, a professor of food chemistry at UC Davis. Funny, I recognized that name. Patents! Yes, J. Bruce German is one of several inventors to two patent applications on human milk components. The recent patent application is called, "Prebiotic oligosaccharides," #20100254949 and the Regents of UC Davis own the patent. The other patent application is called, "Nutritional Products Having Improved Quality and Methods and Systems regarding same," #20080260923. This one is owned by Nestec (Nestle). Both patent applications are for use in the food industry and of course, the infant formula industry. I read J. Bruce German's CV for an International confernce on saturated fat. The CV was written in 2009 and states,"Bruce German received his PhD from Cornell University, joined the faculty at the University of California, Davis in 1988, in 1997 was named the first John E. Kinsella Endowed Chair in Food, Nutrition and Health is currently professor, at University of California, Davis serves as senior scientific advisor at the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne Switzerland and head of the Scientific Board of Lipomics Technologies Inc in California."
I don't have a problem with people working several jobs at one time (done that myself for most of my life). But I find it disturbing that a professor in the area of nutrition at a prestigious university, is also on the payroll of Nestle as well as Lipomics. How do students filter out fact from industry view points? Are students even aware that their professor moonlights for the food industry? This particular article doesn't mention his other jobs. The reader of the article, "Liquid Gold," presumes that this expert is a professor of a well-respected higher educational institution. And for those of us who promote breastfeeding, it should be worth noting that once again we have someone who does research on human milk but is also part of the infant formula industry.
After the brief paragraph on J. Bruce German, the author of this article writes, "While the scientific understanding of human milk is still evolving, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation is straightforward: Mothers should feed their babies nothing but breast milk for the first six months..." Say What? Small lexicon change. What the AAP states is their support of exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months. So this article would have people believing that breast milk feeding is equivalent to breastfeeding, that we can change the text of a document (slightly) and it means the same thing.
The author interviews a woman who needed breastmilk for her baby because her baby had trouble with digesting formula. The reason stated that the mother could not breastfeed was because of a staph infection. Huh? I didn't know that this was a reason for not breastfeeding. I am sure that the mother was either told this or jumped to the conclusion that she could not breastfeed. Human milk inactivates staph bacteria. But is this the direction we will go when organizations promote breastmilk feeding over breastfeeding? Will we have a million reasons why woman cannot possibly breastfeed? The problem of not being able to breastfeed will continue to rear its ugly head despite promotion of breastmilk feeding. Because promotion of breastmilk feeding is NOT promotion of breastfeeding. It is about supporting a substitute for breastfeeding.
Then the article interviews Kim Updegrove, the executive director of an Austin Milk Bank. And the article states that she warns that sharing breast milk is an incredibly risky practice. Then a Stanford University study is mentioned that supposedly showed that of the 1,091 women who applied to donate milk at the San Jose milk bank, 3.3 percent were rejected after their blood tested positive for 5 infections (hiv, hepatitis b and C, human T-cell lymphotropic virus). I read that study and first off the researchers were not independent of the outcome (two were directly involved in HMBANA). So in my view, they had a bias--even the direction of the research showed a bias. Blood is tested with antibody tests which are notorious for their false positives. I believe that the milk bank would not retest to make sure the test was a true positive. They had an extremely high amount of mothers testing positive for human T-cell lymphotropic virus, which is a very, very rare disease in the USA. I think the study was basically worthless. We need researchers to look at this who are independent of the outcome, who are not part of a milk bank. Rather odd to me that the HMBANA milk banks want to prove that milk sharing is dangerous. Of course, their milk sharing/banking isn't dangerous because they do it safely. Reminds me of the infant formula industry's start. Tell mothers they can't make their own formula at home because only industry can make formula safely. Thus the industry is born because of the imagery drawn that mothers are too incompetent to safely make their babies formula. Only industry can safely make infant formula. Of course, the problem with industry when infant formula is contaminated is that instead of one dead or maimed baby, you can have many dead or maimed. No, I am not supportive of people making their own infant formula. I am supportive of breastfeeding. I think we have to look closely at what milk banks (not-for-profit and for profit) are saying. What evidence do they have that milk sharing is not safe because a institution is not involved in the process?
But why is the media promoting breastmilk over breastfeeding? Who is paying for the PR? The article appears at first glance to be a balanced picture of the supposed booming market for breast milk. Yet their are subliminal messages in the article as well as misinformation (AAP statement). No breastfeeding seen. Pictures of a mother who sells her breastmilk, bottlefeeding her baby. Pictures of bottles of human milk taken from an angle that makes one believe the bottles symbolize breasts. Who paid for this article? Why did the author pick J. Bruce German to interview?
We are a gullible public, believing what we read. What does the reader believe after reading this article and why? Why do some breastfeeding advocates believe that promoting breastmilk is equivalent to promoting breastfeeding? Does every baby deserve breastmilk or does every baby deserve to be breastfed?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain