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Monday, March 27, 2006Had a chance to speak with Marsha Austin of the Denver Post last Friday. Marsha was writing an article about the increased interest in milk banks, for-profit milk processing and the breast milk black market that takes place online. We had a nice conversation and I was really looking forward to her article.
It ran on Sunday. You can read the article here:
Sides clash over putting price on mothers' milk
Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed in the article. While it does a decent job of explaining the issues surrounding a lack of milk for mother's that want to give it to their babies, there are two major points that I feel are severely misrepresented.
1.) The issue of private milk sharing. Now, I understand that most people have a pretty negative view of private milk sharing. The idea of getting breast milk from strangers and giving it to your child is pretty scary for most moms. However...the reality is that most moms that are doing this are setting up their own "mini" milk banks. They are medically screening donor moms and many have at home pasteurizers. I know that the author of the article knows this because we talked about this exact issue.
While I don't want to see private milk sharing promoted, because I think there are potential risks, I also think that we do a disservice when we portray these moms as recklessly endangering their children.
Which leads to point two...
2.) Offered up as a potential solution to the shortage of milk via the HMBANA milk banks is Prolacta and the National Milk Bank. Prolacta is a for-profit company that is working to become the new hospital supplier of breast milk and a new breast milk fortifier. They gather the milk via the "National Milk Bank" which touts itself as a non-profit milk bank. Basically, Prolacta uses the national milk bank to attract donors and then turns around, processes the milk and profits from its sale.
Now, let me be clear that I have no problem with capitalism. I have no problem with companies profiting off of breast milk.
HOWEVER...if they are profiting, then they should be buying the milk from mothers. My issue is that they are subtly working to railroad the HMBANA milk banks by lobbying hospitals to become their supplier and by lobbying mothers to become donors. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I think Prolacta has the potential to do major damage to the non-profit milk banking industry in this country and I think that would be a crying shame.
So please, make sure that when you become a milk donor, that you are donating to a HMBANA milk bank.
As for the author, I'm disappointed. We had an excellent talk and I was really looking forward to reading the article. I really didn't expect the tone or the message that ended up coming across in it. It's good that the issue got some exposure, but I don't think it did as much for the milk banking cause as it could of.
Oh well...another day, another battle.