Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, sometimes I feel like a broken record, sometimes

"Legal and moral justification, however, are not identical, and it is possible for a legal decision to be immoral although consistent with legal precedent and procedure.  Thus it is not surprising that the emerging legal consensus on human gene patents had not significantly allayed doubts about their morality."    --Annabelle Lever, PhD, "Ethics and the Patenting of Human Genes"

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. (for those who are too young to remember polyvinyl record albums, broken record refers to, "one who continually repeats the same statement with little variation, the term was derived from polyvinyl record albums which kept skipping back and repeating and repeating a song--the Urban Dictionary) A tune runs through my mind as I reread something I wrote on September 7, 2001 to Lactnet under the title "Milk Harvesting." It is rather disconcerting to read something I wrote over 12 years ago and realize that I am still writing the same thing.  Meaning I am stuck, stuck, stuck and either I need to change the record or find something else to do.  But I thought maybe passing it on again to the readers of my blog might make people understand that these issues that I wrote about in 2001 are not going away but only getting worse.  Although I suppose it depends on what side of the fence you live or where you are employed.

Post to Lactnet:
"We are now witnessing the beginning of a new industry whose impact on breastfeeding may be profound.  The commercialization of human milk will impact the breastfeeding community significantly.  As Elena Taggart Medo raises funds to launch her company Prolacta Bioscience Inc., breastfeeding advocates will need to rethink alot of issues.  One of which is making our communities aware of the benefits of direct breastfeeding.  Canned human milk is obviously an outgrowth of a society that has made an investment in "things" rather than people.  Breastmilk has become a commodity to be bought and sold.  If we accept this idea and if we invest in this business, than[then] ultimately we are self-destructing.  

It is also important to find out whether Prolacta Bioscience is getting funding from the infant formula industry.  I suspect this is the case.  Therefore if breastfeeding advocates join forces with this business, they are aligning themselves with the infant formula industry.

In the past Ms. Medo secured contracts with Abbott ($1.1million) for her company White River Concepts.  And according to her biography, in April 2001 she has 'filed patents on the creation of a gammglobulin[gammaglobulin] replacement made from 100% human milk products and lactoferrin from human milk, a pharmaceutical cure for e.coli.'  So one might suspect that women who kindly donate their milk will be helping Ms. Medo and her company profit from something they are willing to give freely.....

We need to reflect on the value of breastfeeding, the actual physical contact of mothers and babies.  Our society seems bound and determined to value the commodity rather than the relationship.  And maybe that is because our society has made the decision that value has everything to do with the capacity to generate 'money' and that human relationships are secondary or unimportant."

This was in 2001.  I am not sure when it was announced that Prolacta and Abbott had partnered (2011?) but predictably it happened.  I wasn't surprised but I was surprised that the FDA in 2010 did not even know that Prolacta existed.  And frankly I would not describe what they are doing as human milk banking.  They are a business making a preterm and term infant formula from components of human milk.  

Spending over a decade like a broken record is massively depressing.  I find the game playing of social marketing (propaganda?) that is used by breastfeeding organizations to be disturbing.  How does one find the truth amidst all this marketing?  Whose reality do you accept?  The one promoted by both the donor milk banks (non-profit and profit) and the infant formula industry that women won't and can't breastfeed.  So we have to develop a product that is safer than in the past.  No one questions that for the past 100 years scientists have yet to develop a safe substitute/product that will replace breastfeeding.  If we make an infant formula with human milk components, will it be safer?  And to make human milk into a product, how many women do you need to pump their milk (meaning less time for their babies and less breastfeeding)?  The real issue is not that women can't breastfeed but what happens at most American births and afterwards: the mother-infant separations, the poor help for breastfeeding, the marketing of infant formula, the bottle-feeding of breastmilk.  The fix is not just in developing a safer product.  The major fix is to make breastfeeding the priority in health care facilities, in society at large.  
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain


  1. Pamela Morrison IBCLCDecember 11, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    Your prophetic vision has been proved correct again and again, Valerie. Keep up the GREAT WORK!

  2. Many, many thanks for your willingness to "debate" issues with me over the years. Your patience and kindness are not forgotten. Your scholarly approach to issues, and willingness to share research and studies has deepened my respect for you and your work! best wishes...