Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pandora's Box -part 2-

                                    "Recognizing further that inappropriate feeding
                           practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity 
                           and mortality in all countries, and that improper 
                           practices in the marketing of breast-milk
                           substitutes and related products can contribute
                           to these major public health problems." 
                           --International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes

Should we whisper this quote or yell it in the mountains, letting it echo and steep into our consciousness.  All countries not just developing nations are impacted by inappropriate  infant feeding practices.  What world is this that controls, regulates advertising of cigarettes, yet sees no reason to control a product that causes death and disease in our most vulnerable population, our future?  What world is this where medical establishments, researchers, and health care professionals turn a blind eye to corporate funding and influence?  What world is this where the media tells the story and we are suppose to believe it?

What is reality in a world where the truth lies in a heap in the closet door of our dreams?  And will we ever know the truth?  Whose reality do you accept?  The reality the PR players tell you?  What happens when you find that you cannot believe what anyone is saying?  Well, here I sit and wonder at my desk, scratch my head and mumble to myself.  The little bit of me that is the scientist says I need the truth to understand my world and how I should act in it. The truth in our society seems to have gone into that Louisiana  fracking sinkhole.  Yep now ya see a glimmer of the truth and oops there it goes, all oiled-up and draining into the depths of the earth, never to be seen again.

So I want to tell the "story" about the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), and the Mead Johnson gift bags for breastfeeding mothers which have the AAP logo on them because I think parts of the story are being left out.
This website shows the gift bag and its contents.  http://motherbabysummit.com/?page_id=263

The booklet on breastfeeding included in the gift bag is entitled "New Mother's Breastfeeding Essentials," was adapted from at least one AAP book and pamphlets.  The AAP book that the booklet was adapted from is "New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding" (second edition) edited by Dr. Joan Y. Meek, (also an IBCLC).  One can obtain AAP books and pamphlets from the website healthychildren.org which features the AAP logo and is sponsored by various companies like Coca-cola, Kelloggs and even a company called Perrigo--maker of store brand infant formulas. 

It all sounded so familar to me, like something from the past calling to me.  Oh yes, I remember now.  Back in 2002, the first edition of the AAP's "New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding" edited by Dr. Joan Y. Meek, IBCLC was bought by Ross (infant formula company, a division of Abbott).  Ross put their name and teddy bear logo on 300,000 copies of the book.

So one would suppose that since this has happened before, that steps would be taken by AAP members involved in breastfeeding support to see that it would not happen again.  Yet here we go again.  Funny how this little fact seems to be lost in the accusations of AAP hypocrisy.  What happened?  How could this happen again?  There should be explanations and so far as I can tell there seems to be a epidemic of amnesia among breastfeeding advocates.

One of the things that happened after the 2002 absconding of the book edited by Dr. Meek was that some IBCLCs (not me) noticed that Dr. Meek had been doing speaking engagements funded by Mead Johnson.  In June 2003, Dr. Meek shared a letter she wrote to Karen Lundgren, MS, RD of Mead Johnson to the Lactnet community that she would no longer be doing any future pediatric grand rounds, CME programs, or other speaking engagements which were sponsored  by or associated with Mead Johnson.

So we seem to have come full-circle and are back at square one.  And nothing seems to have been learned.  Will there ever be any explanations of what happened?  Will we be able to believe any of the explanations?  This is somewhat as baffling a situation as the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) eliminating the IBCLC duty to protect, promote and support by "complying with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions." (accessed 2008)  In 2012, the Scope of Practice no longer includes this provision.  Hm, who in the IBLCE decided this?  In the FAQ, there is some kind of answer regarding the WHO Code and a duty to adhere to the principles and aim of the Code.  But it's not part of the Scope of Practice nor in the body of the Code of Professional Conduct.  And the question is asked whether an IBCLC can work for an infant formula company.  And the answer is that the IBLCE cannot prohibit it.  I find that odd.  Particularly since I just learned that some companies in the USA have a morals clause.  So a company can make individuals comply with a morals or ethics clause;  but an institution that regulates the lactation consultant profession feels they cannot make it a duty for its certificate holders to adhere to the WHO Code nor can they stop that professional from working for the competition (the infant formula industry).  All mighty strange to me and I believe it requires some answers.  

As for Dr. Meek, she has done a lot for breastfeeding advocacy.  This is why it is such a painful situation.  She has served on the boards of many breastfeeding organizations:  US Breastfeeding Committee, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Florida Mothers Milk Bank, to name a few. 

Who ultimately has control of what you edit or write...the AAP or Mead Johnson?  What about copyright?  Does the AAP own the copyright to the book she edited?  How could this happen a second time?   I don't know what happened and I don't understand how it has happened again.  But it has and I get the feeling that the wheel will keep on spinning in the same place until this Pandora's Box is nailed shut and buried.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pandora's Box: Free Hospital Discharge Bags of infant formula--part 1-

                               NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY by ROBERT FROST

                                     "Nature's first green is gold.
                                      Her hardest hue to hold.
                                      Her early leaf's a flower;
                                      But only so an hour.
                                      Then leaf subsides to leaf.
                                      So Eden sank to grief,
                                      So dawn goes down to day.
                                      Nothing gold can stay."

Remember the story of Pandora's box?  According to Greek mythology, Pandora was given a beautiful jar (the box) and told not to open it under any circumstances.  Pandora opened it and all evil escaped onto the earth.  Pandora expected that Zeus would be angry over her disobedience.  But Zeus was not angry because he knew what she would do with the box.  Yes, she was set-up by Zeus. (women in religion and myth seem to bare the responsibility for evil on earth)  

We have our own modern day Pandora's box.  It is exemplified in the hospital gift bags given to  new breastfeeding mothers in which infant formula is part of the gift.  A new mother intending to breastfeed her baby takes home this gift and is "expected" to not use it.  Like Pandora it is a set-up.  There really is no expectation by the gift-giver (Mead Johnson or any other infant formula company) that the gift will not be opened.  And like the Greek myth of Pandora, the woman is blamed for "giving-in" and succumbing to the temptation of using infant formula.  Yet someone set her up and it wasn't Zeus.  Obviously the set up was staged by the infant formula industry.  But this recent event also has a more repugnant aspect to it in that these gift bags have the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) logo.  Thus the implication is that this gift is endorsed by American pediatricians.  Likewise the receiving of a gift by a medical facility implies endorsement of a product.  Of course, mothers ought to ask themselves what other products does the hospital give out free?  Not much--ask for a band-aid or a sanitary pad in a hospital--and then look at your itemized hospital bill.  Yeah sticker shock.  So giving out free formula from a hospital must mean that they think ya really need it cause nothing is free in American hospitals.  In fact I remember a teen mom I worked with to help her with breastfeeding.  She assumed that the case of free formula she was given meant that the medical staff believed that she "needed" it.  In fact it was the reason for my lactation visit--she thought she had to use the formula--like it was a prescription from the medical staff/hospital.  

I was glad to read that the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine wrote an email to Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, President of the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics.  The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is composed of physicians supportive of breastfeeding.  They urged that AAP discontinue its relationship with Mead Johnson.  Hm....think that might be a little difficult since Dr. Thomas K McInerny, President of the AAP is the Editorial Advisory Board Chair for Pediatric Care Online sponsored by Mead Johnson.  

 There is a belief by some people that formula gift bags in the hospital do not impact breastfeeding.  I hear this on formula feeding blogs and there seems to be some resistance by hospitals to discontinue this practice.  In a very interesting research paper entitled, "Marketing Breastfeeding--Reversing Corporate Influence on Infant Feeding Practices," by Deborah L. Kaplan and Kristina M. Graff published in 2008 by the Journal of Urban Health:  Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine;  the authors state, "In 11 studies selected for review by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), seven found that for at least one point in time, breastfeeding rates were lower among women who received formula company-produced discharge packs and/or formula or formula coupons from hospitals, as compared to women who received non commerical packs or no packs at all."

The research paper also states "Adequate food and nutrition are basic human rights. The widespread promotion of infant formula, which provides suboptimal infant nourishment, and lack of community, institutional, and government support for breastfeeding, all undermine this right."

Pandora's box sits on the hospital bed waiting to be taken home by the new breastfeeding mother.  Will she open it or not?  What do you expect she will do? Zeus knows.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain




Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Candle Light Vigil for Breastfeeding

I am not a poet but just felt the need to write this.  I have other writing projects but am troubled by the direction breastfeeding advocacy is taking.  So instead of writing about the real issues of breastfeeding advocacy, instead I dance away from those issues.  So this is a break from what has to be written and I realize I am stalling.  But also sometimes things just play in my mind, like this "poem."  And I have to write it on paper.  Usually I don't share my "poems." But this is close to my heart, our world/my country seems to have embraced inhumanity, hate, and violence.  And that colors our world of mothering and children.  We forget the needs of our newest members to this world at great risk to the survival of our future.  The needs of the new child born into this world are the same needs of all children in the past.  The need for the closeness of one's mother, her warmth, her milk, and her touch.  That need subverted by our technology and psychological game-playing will create a high price on humanity and its survival.  May all mothers be surrounded by loving kindness, words of strength and belief in her and the biological wisdom of breastfeeding.  May our society open its eyes to the enormous damage we do when we separate mothers and babies.  May our society find ways to help mothers and babies be together.  

The Candle Light Vigil or A Breastfeeding Requiem  by Valerie McClain

Put a candle in the window for what we have lost.
The experts,the industry expound and exhort.
Encouraging and separating mothers and babies.
Into the cribs of micro-chipped strangers.
All homage to the reality show of parental dangers. 
Welcome baby, welcome baby, to the world of molded plastic:  the bottles, the nipples, and pacifiers galore.
Welcome mother, welcome mother, to the world of molded plastic:  the breastpumps, the nipple-shields, and bottles galore.

Put a candle in the window to guide the young mom,
For the list of necessities in parenting abound.
The mother, the baby, living miles apart.
In a society of violence, death, and disease.
All hail the drones of technology spreading hate and war.
Welcome baby, welcome baby, to the world of molded plastic:  the bottles, the nipples, and pacifiers galore.
Welcome mother, welcome mother, to the world of molded plastic:  the breastpumps, the nipple-shields, and bottles galore.

Put a candle in the window in memory of the past.
The human gift of loving gazes, body warmth, and tender touch.
The mother, the baby, together as one.
In a society that treasured people over money and gold.
All hail to a mother and baby breastfeeding.
Welcome baby, welcome baby, into the arms of your mother.
Welcome mother, welcome mother, into a treasured world of breastfeeding.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Social marketing donor milk banking

"Propaganda becomes ineffective the moment we are aware of it."
                                           --Joseph Goebbels

The definition of social marketing at a CDC website is, "the application of commercial marketing technologies to analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to imporve their personal welfare and that of society."  The CDC should know the definition since they budget and employ people to influence people to vaccinate, use condoms, get tested for hiv/aids, etc.  They enlist mommy bloggers, just like the infant formula industry enlists mommy bloggers to market their products.

Propaganda is defined, "as the deliberate, systemic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist." by Jowett & O'Donnell

It seems we are living in times, where every health organization and many non-profits employ media specialists to socially market their interests or their products.  I remember back in the 1990s attending a breastfeeding conference and one of the sessions was on socially marketing breastfeeding.  I walked out about half-way. I probably should have stayed and listened but I couldn't get past the thought that what they were really talking about was propaganda.  It's the only time I have ever walked out of a session in a Conference.  I look back and think who would have believed that so many organizations have embraced social marketing/social media.  The concerns I had back then have not changed.  The major concern was that social marketing is governed by the supposed truths of an organization.  Organizations are run by individuals who don't necessarily have a direct line to the "truth."  In fact no one has a direct line to the truth because we are human.  We, humans, often have no idea how others live, their cultures, their needs.  We, humans, can only see our needs.  Improving someone else's welfare is a tricky business and often social marketing does not account for the many factors of why people do what they do.  Social marketing is dependent on who runs the organizations and their agendas, and this does not necessarily equate to the common good.

Over the years, I have watched the social marketing of donor milk banking and been rather perturbed over it.  The number of not-for-profit milk banks in the USA and globally has expanded.  We even have two for-profit milk banks in the USA (although the person who founded Prolacta also started Medolac).  This expansion of donor milk banking has coincided with the growth of the breast pump/bottle industry.  One sort of piggy-backing on the other.  More and more women believing that breastfeeding requires the purchase of pumps and bottles.  Many women trying to breastfeed but finding it next to impossible to maintain.  Of course it also coincides with more and more women with young babies in the workplace (with little time-off or social/financial support for staying home).  In the USA, we are witnessing an increase of preterm birth and better survival of these tiny babies.

This merging of events seems to have created a steady need for more and more donor milk.  The not-for-profit milk banks in the past have complained about Prolacta Bioscience (the for profit milk bank)competing against them and impacting donations to their not-for profit banks.  In more recent times HMBANA has publicly complained about informal milk sharing on the internet.  The target seems to be Eats on Feets and strangely enough not the other internet milk sharing service called HM4HB (Human Milk for Human Babies).  Not sure why one organization is the target, because it appears to me that some of the same people that are involved with the one organization are also involved in the other organization.  But maybe I misread the internet stories and news, and maybe a lot of it is the masks and mirrors of social marketing.

As I have written before HMBANA has wanted regulation of "informal milk sharing on the internet."  This was stated in 1999 on Lactnet by Mary Rose Tully who at that time was the Chair of HMBANA, when it appeared that there was a web page milk exchange going on.  In 2000 she met with the FDA and again expressed her concern about  "informal milk sharing on the internet."  Knowing this, makes it very surprising that HM4HB seemed so willing to advertise the need for donor milk by non-profit milk banks on their websites.  But then maybe these groups did not understand that since 1999, HMBANA has wanted internet milk sharing stopped.  Back in 2010, I was concerned that HM4HB was not really a grassroots organization but astroturf (from Sourcewatch-astroturf refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created, or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms).  I was told by their 300 or so administrators that I was totally wrong about my concerns.http://vwmcclain.blogspot.com/2011/07/is-hm4hb-grassroots-organization-or.html

I find myself once again wondering about internet milk sharing organizations.  Why is their petition on the web only directed at the one bill and not at the bill regarding licensing of milk banks?  The bill on licensing milk banks appears to be directed at anyone who attempts a milk banking service (which in my mind means it is directed at stopping internet service organizations like Eats on Feets and HM4HB) Why would a petition signed by people of all different countries make NJ legislators rethink this bill?  Legislators mostly care about their constituents (voters in New Jersey) and wouldn't really care what someone from another country thinks.  Its rather amazing to watch how many people signed this petition within a short period of time. 

It will be interesting to see what happens next in the world of social media.  One would think that the NJ Department of Health would be more interested in stopping internet milk selling rather than internet milk sharing. Obviously people selling human milk are not going to report it on their income tax.  But you know the reality is that we don't know the actual statistics of how much human milk is being shared or sold on the internet.  So we have to believe in the truth of the internet, that this has become a booming business/service in need of curtailing.  Funny thing is I just read an abstract from the JHL entitled, "Donor Human Milk Bank Data Collection in North America," by Brownell, et al. (10-28-13).  The study concluded (according to the abstract), "Without standardized data across all HMBANA sites, the creation of a centralized data repository is not yet feasible.  Lack of standardization and transparency may deter implementation of donor milk programs in the neonatal intensive care unit setting and hinder benchmarking, research, and quality improvement initiatives."  I kind of laughed because I was amazed they got any data from HMBANA milk banks (only 8 out of 13 sites consented to participate).  Basically we don't know donor demographics to milk banks.  We don't know some basic information about donor milk banking or internet milk sharing or internet milk selling.  And yet, here we are creating bills with little background information on how much of this is really going on nor do we know the demographics of women who donate to non-profit milk banks.  
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain

*In December 2010 the FDA Working Group held meetings on Banked Human Milk.  I was amazed that the FDA stated that they just had been made aware of a large scale human milk company, Prolacta Bioscience.  The company was launched in 2001.  So we have a company that is making human milk products for preterm infants, and the FDA in 2010 just became aware of it.  Fascinating.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The struggle for control of donor human milk

Indeed, who shall control a world's natural resource, human milk?  Women?  The US Department of Health?  HMBANA (the North American non-profit milk banking organization)?  Prolacta Bioscience or Medolac (the US for-profit milk banks)?  And what about the global internet milk sharing organizations like Eats on Feets or HM4HB (Human Milk for Human Babies)?  What role does the internet milk sharing organizations play in the battle for human milk?  Are women selling their milk through the internet (which is not what the internet milk sharing organizations are about)?  And how is this struggle for control tied to the social marketing of donor milk?

I cannot answer all these questions because sometimes we don't know the truth of a matter until much later in time.  Events aren't always clear as they are happening.  And even when we have the grace of retrospection, we can be blind by our own prejudices.  In a society governed by the profit motive and the need to own and control a resource, there is a blindness to the reality that nothing ultimately can really be owned.  That natural resources are a gift to all the people on this earth.  They are here to be shared not to be squandered, pillaged, and raped by corporate or individual greed.

Recently, it has come to my attention that New Jersey Assemblywoman, Pamela R. Lampitt has introduced two bills to the New Jersey Assembly.  Assembly Bill 3703 which provides licensure of human milk banks and Assembly Bill 3702 which establishes a "public awareness campaign advising pregnant women, new parents, and women who are breastfeeding about dangers of casual milk sharing."  (November 25, 2013 reported out of Committee, 2nd reading)

Part of the proposed bill is on licensure of human milk banks, "Any person who operates a human milk bank that does not have a license, or who has used fraud or misrepresentation in obtaining a license or in the subsequent operation of a human milk bank, or who offers, advertise, or provides any service not authorized by a valid license, or who violates any other provision of this act shall be subject to a penalty of not less than $100 or more than $1000..."  I was told that this penalty is not directed at mothers sharing human milk but directed at human milk banks.  Curious to me.  Since I don't think too many people or persons are starting up human milk banks in New Jersey.  And having recently read a slew of media reports on how the "booming demand for donated breast milk raises safety issues," with interviews of people involved with HMBANA and people involved with internet milk sharing organizations;  I found myself rather curious about the reason for this legislation.  So how is human milk banking defined in this legislation?  It is defined as, "an organized service for the selection of a donor and the collection, processing, storage, and distribution of donated human breast milk to a hospital for use by low birth weight babies or new mothers with delayed lactation, or directly to a parent, with a physician's prescription order, who is unable to nurse, or is in need of additional breast milk to feed, the parent's child."  Is it possible that this definition might encompass the services of internet milk sharing organizations?  A recent article in the New Jersey spotlight entitled, "Websites for sharing breast milk raise concerns about health risks by Andrew Kitchenman (December 2, 2013)  interviews Dr. Sharon Mass, chairwoman of the New Jersey chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  The author writes, "However Mass said, women should use milk from licensed milk banks instead of using the unregulated milk-sharing sites.  'if it's not regulated and it's not licensed, then we have no idea about the quality or safety of that milk,' said Mass, ACOG's representative to the United States Breastfeeding Committee.

Kim Updegrove, President of HMBANA, "would like the government to simply, outlaw the internet milk trade.  This would steer would-be donors to the milk banks..."  This was stated in an interview on NPR, All Things Considered, November 27, 2013.   There has been this amazing amount of articles in November (from various places in the USA) reporting on the one study done in which "bought" human milk over the internet was "supposedly" contaminated with bacteria.  This study was done by at least one researcher from the HMBANA organization.  Which one might be concerned that there might be a level of bias in this particular study.   HMBANA has since the year 2000 (letter to FDA) stated that they want internet milk sharing/selling to be stopped.  I had not realized that there was internet milk sharing/selling back in the year 2000--other than some men having a fetish for human milk and wanting to buy some.  I also know that human milk researchers advertise in the media for human milk and pay for it.  But some human milk researchers (who are often funded by the infant formula industry) get donor milk from HMBANA (one of the organization's mission statements is promotion of research of human milk).  In years past HMBANA's advisory board was often human milk researchers who were funded by the infant formula industry.  I brought this up a number of times to breastfeeding advocates and the response was a lack of concern or the ever-endearing dead silence.  I think having researchers who are funded by the infant formula industry sitting in advisory boards to human milk banks is mighty short-sighted.  But I guess I am the only one who feels that way since there has never been a protest over this common practice.

I think it is a rather sorry state of affairs when donor milk banks feel the need to use the media to broadcast research that is dubious, that donor milk is disease-ridden, etc.  It plays quite nicely into the hands of the infant formula industry.  And is very destructive to creating a breastfeeding society. On the other hand I cannot support internet milk sharing organizations because the internet is just not community.  I support milk sharing with mothers who live in close proximity to each other.  Sharing locally or even selling locally makes more sense to me than believing that we truly know someone over the internet.  So I stand in the middle of what I perceive to be a war over a resource, human milk.  We have over 2000 US patents and applications on human milk components (some owned by the US Department of Health).  Many of those patents are owned by the infant formula industry, some by medical colleges who will license their inventions to companies, some by for-profit milk banks, and some by the pharmaceutical industry.  Is this really about the danger of a substance in the hands of private citizens?  Or is this about a battle over the ownership of a natural resource?  Frankly, I saw this coming back some years ago, I pleaded to be listened to, that something needed to be done.  Silence and more silence has been the overall response. If this bill passes and becomes law,  we will have a social marketing campaign by the NJ Department of Health telling mothers how disease-ridden and toxic donor milk is if shared or purchased by anyone but the State regulated milk banks.  How will we ever get women to breastfeed once they believe that the milk they produce and are willing to share freely is just some diseased and toxic substance, unworthy of consumption?  The fact is that human milk contains many treasured substances, one being stem cells with supposedly magical properties, magic bullets (as male researchers like to say because they target organs without damaging them--very important in cancer therapies).   Is this a legal battle of keeping the public safe?  Or is this about control of a natural resource?
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain