Thursday

"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

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