Saturday

Standardized human milk or a dairy substitute?


What will the future bring?  I never thought I'd live past 30, so it is quite the surprise to look in the mirror and see a wrinkled face peeking at me.  My belief that I wouldn't make it past 30 was not based on having a deadly disease or cancer.  It was just I never planned for this aging business.   In my mind I am still 18 or even 20 but the reality of looking in the mirror tells me something happened overnight.  Time travel?  Things have changed.  Just yesterday--30 years ago-the ocean was full of fish.   The dirt road I lived on 30 years ago is paved and all the woods are gone.  And the fireflies have disappeared with the woods.  The cranky old neighbors who didn't want families moving into the block are long gone.  And now I am the cranky old neighbor.  Waves of change to my world.   Slowly like the grains of sand, I am worn down by thoughts of what the future will bring.  Will there be a future?  Fukishima, a living nightmare for the Japanese people and the World, is never far from my thoughts.  We have taken the World to the brink and we are teeter tottering on the edge.   I never considered the future in my youth, why now?

 This morning I thought about what the future will be offering infants.  I am sure it won't be the breast.  It will be a choice of " a standardized Human Milk" or "a Dairy Substitute."  Society seems to be gearing up for a very technological world in which breastfeeding has no place.  Our current world seems ensnarled in its technology.   People have phones stuck to their heads and hands.  Try to contact a business or an organization, and ya get voice mail.  No one is there.  I ask on the phone, may I speak to a real person please.  Oh sure, hold....my digital clock quietly moves the numbers, no tick tock in this world.  If I became a mother now (yes a biological miracle), I don't think I would have time to connect with a baby.  I'd be too busy looking at my emails or Facebook, browsing websites, looking at photos.  And of course I wouldn't be home, I'd be in the workplace, making a living or is it a dying?  Thank god, I had my children before I had a computer.  I knew things were getting strange even when my kids were little--that people were disconnected.  I'd go to a party and someone would be videotaping the party.  Fine.  But then before the party would end, everyone would have to watch the videotape of the party.  So the experience of the party became a movie and the movie was the experience of the party.   It became this narcissistic event of watching yourself and your friends.   So rather than spending time talking with each other, dancing, or sharing a meal, we passively watch ourselves party.  I found that strange then and realize it was the beginning of our current cultural journey of disconnection.

I found myself reading a Prolacta patent, entitled "Human Milk compositions and methods of making and using same." (patent # 8545920) And my sense of disconnection increases and weariness falls heavily on my shoulders.  Inventing human milk concoctions appears to be very complex.  Interestingly, we are told (like all the infant formula patents), "Not every mother, however, can or will breastfeed her baby..."  We learn about screening donors through interviews and biological sample processing.We are informed that "each donor's milk is sampled for genetic markers, e.g. DNA markers, to guarantee that the milk is truly from the registered donor."  Genetically screened by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) for contaminants.  Then the milk is filtered, and heat treated.  Then the cream of the milk is separated from the skim by centrifuge.  This may be done twice.  Then once this is done, the cream is added back and further filtration occurs which concentrates the nutrients by filtering out the water.  The water obtained from this process is called permeate.  There are various processes depending on whether they are making a fortifier or standardized human milk.  Some of those processes are freezing and then thawing, adding minerals or extra cream.  After certain steps then pasteruization happens.  The vitamins and minerals that may be added to the various inventions are:  "vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitmain B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, biotin, Folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, m-inositol, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, manganese, coper, sodium, potassium, chloride, iron, and selenium.  The compositions can also be supplemented with chromium, molybdenum, iodine, taurine, carnitine and choline may also require supplementation."  DHA and ARA, fatty acids may also be added depending on the product.  Depending on their source for these fatty acids, most are genetically engineered.  The list of added vitamins and minerals reads like the ingredient list on infant formula.  I suppose their suppliers for these added nutrients are the same ones that the infant formula industry uses.

The processing of donor milk at Prolacta seems very complex with many steps.  How does this kind of milk resemble the milk that infants drink at the human breast?  Is part of the reason for fortification (besides the fact that most of this goes to premature infants) because this has become highly processed which means nutrients are lost?  And then what are the ethics behind women donating their milk so that this company can make a profit?

 I do see this as the future of infant feeding.  With the ability to filter out various components of human milk, the components can be sold to the infant formula industry who will add it into their products.  Already Abbott has 7 or 8 patent applications in which Human Milk Oligosaccharides will be used in their infant formula and the way the patent is worded makes me wonder whether they will be using the real component or the gmo version.   Abbott is partnered with Prolacta, so it isn't farfetched to believe that this might be the direction they are going.  Or maybe not.  What will be the direction of infant formula in the future?  What is Prolacta's place in that future?  Who would have thought that people would accept standardized human milk products?  Who would have thought women would donate their milk to that endeavor?  Seems like science fiction.  What will the future bring?
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain

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