The MilkMan cometh....

Okay, here she comes, walking into your living room via the Internet. Looking for donations and maybe she will even pay ya for your freezer-full of humanmilk. She has such a sad story of babies in need, desperate for humanmilk. You feel the need to help, its your civic duty. Generosity is often in the souls of many women, often unrecognized. Babies call to us. I melt every time I see a baby. I remember my babies: their adoring eyes, their sweet breastmilk breath, their soft skin, their vulnerability. I'll donate, I'll relactate, I want to save babies. Wait, is the story for real....its the Internet, The Virtual, prime dreamworld of a world on self-destruct. It could be true, I want it to be true, but some things are just too good to be true.

As a lactation consultant, who no longer practices her profession, but remembers trying to preserve and protect a mother's milk supply; I value the idea of access to donor milk. If only a mother who has breastfeeding difficulties could easily access donor milk rather than infant formula (a costly product with known and unknown risks). But does the introduction of donor milk create risks for mothers who are having difficulties breastfeeding? How will the mother introduce this donor milk to her infant? By bottle?? By a SNS/Lactaid-devices to keep infants on the breast while getting extra milk? The introduction of bottles or breastfeeding devices is not without risk to the breastfeeding relationship. The LC/health professional has to understand the risks and educate the mother (time intensive). The mother has to incorporate new ideas and behavior at a time when she maybe stressed beyond her abilities to cope with something new. Will introducing "a product," human milk, make us a breastfeeding society? Or should our society's investment be in creating better childbirth environments in which breastfeeding is normalized. Should we invest in better financial support for mother's of new babies? Why should women, particularly women who are resource poor, be forced into employment two weeks postpartum (it's two months postpartum in Florida but mothers are often scared of losing their jobs or benefits and rush to get back) by US public health systems? We will give you food stamps or WIC but you must be employed? So a women in poverty must abandon her newborn to some daycare provider, a boyfriend, a relative who has less investment in protecting her newborn than the mother. One reads on a regular basis news stories of infants beaten, abused by boyfriends who are babysitting. The story often reads that the baby cried too much (missing mommy) and the boyfriend couldn't take it. How many families are destroyed because we believe that babies aren't really human beings in need of comfort and care of their mommies? Is this a rejection of feminism? No. It's a step towards building love and humanity into our child-rearing practices.

We now have breastmilk sharing at Facebook/ Internet called Eats on Feets. I like the idea, yet I am troubled by it. Part of the troubling aspect, is just the fact of the Virtual. We are dealing with the unknown, mothers will be dealing with the unknown. Is the person really a mother needing breastmilk? Or might this mother be faking it in order to sell the milk to Prolacta or researchers in various industries? Interestingly, Prolacta has a new patent application (several in fact) filed in March 2010. Called, "Method for collecting, testing and distributing milk," patent application 20100268658. The inventors are Elena Medo, Martin Lee, and David Rechtman. The abstract states, "The disclosure is related generally to a method for facilitating the collection and distribution of milk over a computer nextwork (I think they mean network) among a milk provider, a milk company and a milk distribution center." Interestingly, Elena Medo is now the CEO for a company called Neolac, Inc. It's listed as a private company in California under fluid milk, Dairy Products.

I think this is all getting rather confusing to me. We have a void of knowledge about the financial value of humanmilk. And into this void steps industry and a global organization dedicated to helping mothers connect with other mothers for breastmilk. We have HMBANA (nonprofit milk banks) who is collaborating with the FDA and has in the past given donor milk to researchers who have patented. Is there transparency in these organizations? Shouldn't regulations demand transparency, so that mothers recognize when they are truly gifting their milk and when donating is actually enriching corporations?
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

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