Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is HM4HB a grassroots organization or astroturf?

Remember astroturf, that fake grass in football stadiums?  Well, that's what they call fake grassroots organization that are run by public relation people who may represent industry, organizations, or government.  They have an agenda, often political.  They create the illusion that there are many people involved in an issue.  Astroturf operations has been known to sway legislators, our lawmakers into believing that they are witnessing genuine grassroots organizations.  The thing about astroturf operations run by public relation companies is that some people involved with these fake grassroots organizations are honest citizens who have no idea that the organization was developed by public relations.  

My question has been whether HM4HB is a grassroots organization that just sprung up within the last year.  Or whether HM4HB is astroturf, an organization that Is public relations and has another organization's agenda.  HM4HB stated mission statement is, "to promote the nourishment of babies and children around the world with human milk.  We are dedicated to fostering community between local families who have chosen to share breastmilk." 

If one goes to the above website, words pop out at you in wonderful technicolor, "think globally share locally, transparency, honesty, solidarity, consensus..."  We see these words, we are engulfed by these words and we presume that the words are the substance of the organization.  But for words to have substance, we have to have a structure in which those issues become reality. What governing structure does HM4HB have in creating their policies?  We are told that 300 administrators decide on policy.  Sounds very chaotic to me and very difficult to obtain consensus.

Transparency?  Facebook pages of HM4HB suggest donating to HMBANA milk banks, the very organization that has publicly stated that mother-to-mother internet milk sharing is risky.  What is the relationship between HMBANA and this organization?  One-sided?  All fluff and no substance?

Why do administrators of HM4HB contradict themselves?  Why do they not know that HM4HB is suggesting to donate to HMBANA milk banks in various Facebook pages?  Who creates HM4HB policy?  All 300 administrators?  It seems like someone is creating policy for HM4HB without informing all their administrators of that policy (suggesting mothers donate to HMBANA).  Yet the public has no knowledge of who is guiding this organization and it seems that even some of their administrators are left in the dark regarding policy.

If this is a astroturf operation, what organization is behind HM4HB?  Is it HMBANA, who from the year 2000 was contacting the FDA because of their concerns about internet milk sharing?  Is this a way to prove to the FDA that milk sharing is becoming widespread and worthy of regulation?  And why would HMBANA want internet milk sharing regulated?  If mother-to-mother milk sharing was regulated, who benefits?  Is there really risks to milk sharing?  Or is the risk about control of a natural resource?  Is HMBANA faced with a critical donor milk shortage?  Why is their no public discussion of where some of HMBANA's donor milk goes, to the research community?  How much of donor milk for HMBANA goes to human milk researchers who are funded or employed by the infant formula industry?  Several patents, mention HMBANA donor milk as a source of their research.

Why are organizations that are involved with women donating their milk, not willing to fully disclose to mothers and fathers the widespread patenting of human milk components for various industries-infant formula, food, supplements, drugs, and vaccines.  The commercialization of human milk components means that human milk is not some "yucky" substance but considered by commerce to be valuable, worthy of patenting.  It means that mothers and fathers, too, need to be aware that donating may not be about giving their precious milk to some poor premature baby.  What it may mean is that mothers are giving away a valuable resource to various industries who will profit from that donation.  I call that exploitation.  I believe that every organization that is involved with donor milk/mother-to-mother milk sharing ought to fully disclose this possibility, so that mothers are truly informed and understand the possibilities of their donation. 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain


  1. HMBANA is probably not a huge fan of HM4HB. I say probably because I do not purport to read minds. The only people we can control are ourselves and we are not in the business of hating. Our goal is in our name: Human milk for human babies. Whether or not we agree with everything they do, HMBANA does get human milk to human babies.

    Clearly, you feel that if we don't publicly denounce HMBANA that we are in their back pocket, or something. I will try to be as transparent as possible here: We are in no way (now or ever) associated with HMBANA.

    Although, I don't know why I even bother. You've proven time and time again that you will only latch on to the words (however out of context) that you feel prove your point. You are not interested in the truth otherwise you would get on the phone and talk to Emma. You know about Emma, right? The SAHM of 3 who does not and has not worked for a milk bank, but HAS worked tirelessly to get this grassroots project off the ground?

  2. Angela,
    HMBANA has publicly stated their disapproval of mother-to-mother milk sharing as too risky. They are actively seeking FDA regulation. This has been published in a variety of media outlets. Why would your organization "advertise" for HMBANA, when HMBANA does not approve of your very existence? Seems strange to me.

    If I was interested in truth, I would get on the phone with Emma? Truth is only available by phone? Hm....interesting viewpoint. Like I told Emma, I am available by email, if she would like to discuss the issues. She declined that offer.

  3. I know this is a radical concept in today's world: to actually do what helps people more, and not what politics says it is wise to do. Hm4HB is all about helping babies to get human milk. It is all for the babies, and nobody else. Not the politics, not the marketing, not the fame, whatever. If HMBANA doesn't have enough milk, the ones to get hurt are the babies, the often premature and/or sick babies that they serve. Some admins saw that their pages had more offers than requests and took compassion for those babies, and made a decision that goes along with the core of who HM4HB is: babies always come first. HM4HB will always make the decision that helps the babies the most. That is our commitment. HMBANA has their own policies, that i don't know or much care to know, and they make their own decisions. We stand by our commitment despite of this policies, because we only care about the babies. I know, shocking! Such humanitarian commitment should be slandered and smeared, how dare we put the babies first??

    Emma is a mother of three little kids. I don't know, but from personal experience, writing a long email is quite the task, as, unlike the phone, it is not something that you can do multitasking. But your refusal and suspicious doesn't surprise me as the only thing that you have proven to me with your posts is that you have zero respect and complete disregard for mothers.

  4. She did not decline! She is parenting 24/7 solo out on the west coast right now!
    As I told you in my e-mail, Valerie (direct copy & paste):
    "Ok. It's just that I am unable to type out the explanation as I am solo-parenting, 24-7, for the next three weeks (I have three young children, inc. a non-stop nursling)."
    You can go on with your conspiracy theories all you like but you won't find them verified in anything we do.

  5. Emma,
    Yes, this one sentence was your response. I presumed that was a decline to my suggestion that we have an email discussion. Having had 3 children and been a single parent, I am quite aware of the difficulties.
    Conspiracy theories? Hm, first administrators of HM4HB say there is no PR person or PR department in the organization. Yet Jodine Chase (was involved with HM4HB) is a professional PR person with her own PR company. Transparency? Not in my book. HM4HB "advertises" for HMBANA, yet some adminstrators deny that HM4HB has ever encouraged moms to donate to HMBANA. Then, when I point out the pages on HM4HB Facebook (because of the denial)..., the explanation changes. Jodine Chase suggests in her comment to my previous blog post that some adminstrators are exploring the option of encouraging HMBANA donation. Are questions about an organization that is involved in sharing of human milk through the internet (a global reach)about my conspiracy theories? Who is accountable for policy in your organization? The FDA in late 2010 warned parents, "not to casually use breast milk from unscreened mothers..." HMBANA has had in the past a collaborative relationship with the FDA. (I have a document entitled, "A proposal for Collaboration Between the FDA and the Human Milk Banking Association of North America to Assure the Quality and Safety of Donor Human Milk." dated 2000 which relays the history (since 1987) of this collaboration as well as HMBANA's concern over "breastfeeding mothers giving away or selling their milk locally or via the Internet." Yet, HM4HB is advertising HMBANA's supposed critical shortage of donor human milk and suggesting mothers donate. Seems rather odd to me, like shooting yourself in the foot. One of HMBANA's mission statements is, "Encourage research into the unique properties of human milk for therapeutic and nutritional purposes." That means that donor milk does not just go for premature infants or sick babies but also to researchers. Researchers who are often connected to the infant formula industry. A long time advisor to HMBANA is Erkhard Ziegler, MD who has been funded in his research by various infant formula companies.
    HM4HB advertising of HMBANA's need for donor milk, should require(for transparency's sake) a written statement that it is possible that a mom's donor milk to HMBANA will be used to make some researchers/industries money but it also does go to premature/sick infants. HMBANA Conferences often feature human milk researchers who have patented human milk components. Some patents state that HMBANA donor milk was used. Parents need to be informed. Transparency is a key issue.

  6. I'm not going to continue to comment here, Valerie. I feel my words are being misrepresented to bolster your arguments. You have done much to shine a light in dark corners over the years, but I fear you have crossed over to a place that sees monsters where there is only dust and cobwebs I wish you well.

  7. I agree with Jodine. I am a 'nobody' a 4th helper in a state and can see everything going on within and there is no false inspiration or misleading going on!

  8. Nome,
    I don't believe in "nobodies." You are a somebody, an important somebody in this universe. Obviously, I don't agree with Jodine. I think there is something seriously amiss in your organization.


  10. For the record, I don't believe that Emma has anything to do with astroturfing. Jodine on the other hand... not so sure. her affiliation with HMBANA is conveniently gone out of the ether.