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The Lactivist Mentioned in the Denver Post

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Had 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.

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  1. Anonymous feldman | 6:03 AM |  

    You wouldn't happen to have any links or further info re: the Prolacta connection to the National Milk Bank, would you?

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 6:12 AM |  

    Sure thing, here you go...

    National Milk Bank testimonial page

    Press Release on NMB site

    Press release on another site

    the Denver Post article

    Article on BBC news

    Innacurate information on HMBANA banks on the Prolacta site. The number of milk banks is actually on the rise again, up to nearly a dozen now.

  3. Anonymous feldman | 9:18 AM |  

    Thank you, I appreciate the links because I've received literature from the NMB and was considering donating. While it seems the founder of Prolacta has some good intentions, setting up a "non-profit" front to mine the raw materials without full disclosure to the "donors" of the for-profit reality of the enterprise is playing dirty pool.

    If I have extra supply after the kidlet arrives, I'll be vetting the milk bank I donate to carefully.

  4. Blogger Jennifer | 10:35 AM |  

    That's my thinking. I have no problem with Prolacta profiting off of milk...but, not on the premise that they are a non-profit institution. And, if they are profiting from the milk, then the donor moms should be profiting as well.

    I also take issue with the fact that they campaign pretty hard against the HMBANA banks, including trying to imply to hospitals that HMBANA's screening process is not safe enough. That bugs me big time.

    Check out the HMBANA site...those are all of the non-profit milk banks and there are 11 in North America. Even if there isn't one right near you, many have drop-off depots that you can donate at.

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