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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"the mystical public relations people you speak of..., said "R"

Music fills the cab of my truck.  I hear, "I want it all, I want it all, I want it all.  And I want it now."   Reminds me of the last few days and having several commentators to my blog pushing for an immediate publication of their comments.   And the accusations of one administrator to HM4HB that because I only responded to "the professionals,"  I was showing my disregard (disrespect) for the moms who administrators of HM4HBYikes blasted again and again, what's an old lady to do?  Yes, yes, must defend myself.  How could they not know me and my life? The premise is that the internet encourages community and transparency.  So how come they don't know me?  

Okay for those of you who don't know my schedule, here it is.  I am employed outside the home.  Sometimes I work 12 hours in one day.  My employment is not related to breastfeeding.  Some weeks I work 6 days.  I am tired and blurry eyed and I am 60 years old.  So immediate responses to my blog are limited by how long I have worked and how tired I am.  I realize that is no excuse because there are no excuses in the Virtual.  This is for Agustina, who believes that I only responded to "the professionals."  Hm... Yesterday I started to respond to the comments.  The first comment I received was from Karleen Gribble and second comment was from Jodine Chase.  By the time I finished my comments to each of them, I had to go to work.  I know a likely excuse.  I had planned to respond to each and every comment.  But...heck this is the internet and your impression of me has to be right.  I am an elitist and only respond to "the professionals."  Funny thing is that I was a stay-at-home mom myself until my divorce.  Then I became a single parent with 3 kids and I had to find employment or live on the side of the road.  I don't believe that a mom who stays home with their kids lacks intelligence, diligence, creativity, etc.  If I did, then I would truly not believe in my own values.  

My understanding from the flow of the comments is that almost all administrators to HM4HB deny that anyone at HM4HB is employed in the field of public relations.  So either they did not know that Jodine Chase was employed (I believe her own company) in Public Relations or they lied.  I believe that they did not know.  I don't think they lied.  Which makes me question the whole belief by HM4HB that the internet is community and transparent.  

I find it strange that Jodine right from the start of her comments did not say that she no longer volunteered for HM4HB.  It would seem to me that that would be a key statement to be made from the start.  Someone says the organization has a PR person in it, then it would seem that one would immediately dispel that notion.  Only much later, is this brought up.  And brought up after comments by other administrators who declare that there are no PR people in their organization.  So Jodine is no longer in the organization, except for one project, HM4HB Week.  

I know Jodine from some time back.  I knew she was in public relations.  In fact I thought she did PR work for HMBANA.  So I was somewhat confused by her involvement with HM4HB/Eats on Feets.  Because I believed that HMBANA is absolutely opposed to moms milk sharing over the internet.  In fact in 2000 HMBANA met with the FDA to suggest that regulation of milk sharing is needed because of the internet.  I believed that HM4HB was opposed to organized milk banking.  Wrong.  I happened to browse the Facebook page of HMBANA and a Facebook page for HM4HB page and both organization do not seem adverse to helping each other through HMBANA's critical donor milk shortage.  Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at a Facebook page on HM4HB is a suggestion to moms that "if you have milk to share, you might want to see if you are close to a HMBANA milk bank.."
To see HMBANA's comments about HM4HB

Will the real mystical public relation people stand up?  Nope, it's the Virtual and nothing is as it seems.  
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"expanding the world supply of human milk..."

Some 50 years ago, we witnessed a revival of breastfeeding in the USA.  La Leche League came into existence helping protect and promote breastfeeding.  Gradually, breastfeeding made a comeback from the abysmal low initiation and duration statistics of the 1950's.  It took a number of decades, but gradually more and more women in the USA were breastfeeding.  La Leche League literally saved breastfeeding from extinction.

Recently I read a paper published in the International Breastfeeding Journal called, "Milk sharing:  from private practice to public pursuit," in June of this year.  The last sentence in the abstract states, "If undertaken, managed and evaluated appropriately, this made-by-mothers model shows considerable potential for expanding the world's supply of human milk and improving the health of children." (my italics)  Where is breastfeeding?  What happens when we expand the supply of human milk?  More breastfeeding? Or less breastfeeding?  So we create a market and more babies get the product, human milkDoes human milk in the bottle, create better health for humans?  Or is it another case of how we are distancing mothers from babies, creating more emotional disease?

This paper has a number of premises that I must question.  It states, "After only six months, a commerce-free internet-based milk-sharing model is operating in nearly 50 countries, connecting mothers who are able to donate breast milk with the caregivers of babies who need breast milk."  Yes, when you have people who are in public relations directing this model, ideas will go viral.  PR people know how to create an image.  How do we know this is commerce-free?  Are potential recipients screened to protect the donor from gifting milk to industry?  With 2000 human milk patents and patent applications (and climbing), what will prevent industry from having someone pretend they are a mother in need of breastmilk? Industry has the money and woman-power to use the internet to further their need for an expanding world supply of human milk.  What checks and balances do these organizations provide for women so that misuse of mother-to-mother milk sharing is truly mother-to-mother?  Isn't that an impossibility on the internet?  

The conclusion of this article states that, "Mothers are leading in this initiative."  I think that statement is misleading.  My impression is that Eats on Feet was begun by a midwife, who is also a mother.  Eats on Feet then was taken over by PR people.  This in my opinion created friction over various issues, and another organization was born, Human Milk 4 Human Babies.    The PR people created a new organization, Human Milk 4 Human BabiesWho hired the PR people?  Who do they work for?  If one takes a cynical view of the politics behind infant feeding, one might think there is more here than meets the eye.  If mother-to-mother milk sharing is mostly PR with little substance, then who are the real players?  And what reality are they spinning?  Who is buying the PR for promoting the expansion of the world supply of human milk?  The US Government?  HMBANA?  Prolacta? 

Getting an article published in the International Breastfeeding Journal requires having a certain amount of money.  I once inquired about getting an article published there but realized I didn't have enough money to even consider publication.  It was a substantial amount of money for me. (I must admit my income level puts me as one of the many working poor in the USA--our numbers are getting larger and larger).  When publication requires the big bucks, who gets published?  Whose interests are broadcast to the profession and whose are never heard?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain