February 28, 2010

If you attachment parent (AP), then you believe in the principals laid out by Attachment Parenting International.  This type of parenting has been popularized, in large part, by Dr. William Sears, who has his own list of "Baby B's." AP emphasizes on bonding with your newborn, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and responding to your baby's cries.  In essence, it means following your natural instincts as a parent - to snuggle and love and soothe your baby. 

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February 27, 2010

The Creation of New Medications Based on Human Breast Milk Components

Previously, I've written about the possibility of making therapeutics directly from donor breastmilk, such as Prolacta's HMF (the need for HMF has been discussed in the comments of another post about Prolacta).  But what about individual breast milk components being recreated in a lab for use in medicinal products?  In my first post on this topic I focused on the irreproducibility of breast milk, but what about the individual components that are reproducible - the ones that can be made in a lab?

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February 20, 2010

If you've read Your Right To Nurse In Public or keep up with informative Breastfeeding and the Law posts like this one on the Sustainable Mothering blog, you will have noticed the glaring absence of any federal laws to protect breastfeeding (except in federal buildings).  Breastfeeding moms have to scrounge around state-by-state to figure out whether or not they will be protected when they need to nurse in public or pump at work. 

Ideally, breastfeeding will be protected as a civil right, and those who attempt to deny mothers this right or discriminate against them will be subject to legal action.  These kinds of strong state laws are a rarity, as discussed in this older but thoughtful discussion of Lactation and the Law from Mothering Magazine. At the minimum, basic federal legislation protecting breastfeeding moms, such as that proposed in the Health Care Reform Bill, would be passed. 

How can moms help? Here's one easy but helpful way...

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February 13, 2010

"Wow, that breastfeeding really keeps you thin!"

I've heard this a few times since I started breastfeeding my first son, and I'm always tempted to reply,

"Yeah - I actually had kids because I got so sick of spending a whole hour of my time at the gym everyday.  What a timesaver that was!"

but I usually just smile and say "I guess so." 

The calorie-burning aspects of breastfeeding have been given a lot of attention in recent years.  Although the calorie burn is real, the net effect on body weight can vary a lot...

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February 12, 2010

Part 4: Milk Money

Will informing donors about the manufacture of costly therapeutics from their milk mean paying them as well?
This question is hard to answer. First, because I have no idea whether Prolacta has far more milk than they need or just enough to squeak by. Of course, if the donor milk supply is exceedingly high, there will never be any need to pay donors.

How much milk?
So, how much breast milk does Prolacta currently have in its possession? For that matter, how much total milk is collected in the US every year? What percent of that milk is processed and sold back to hospitals at cost by non-profits and what percent goes to the development and manufacture of Prolacta products? If anyone out there has access to these numbers, I'd love to know them.  I can only find the odd report here and there - nothing comprehensive.

One number I can find is on the IBMP website, which says they've collected 262,682 oz. of milk for Africa. If the milk split described on their How It Works / Donation Process page holds true (25% to Africa and 75% to "critically ill babies in the US," aka Prolacta), than that particular bank has provided Prolacta with 788,046 oz (=6,156 gallons =22,305 L) of breast milk. Add to that 100% of the milk collected at all the other Prolacta milk Banks, and that could be a lot. Or maybe it's barely enough?

How will donors feel?
The next question is - how will donors feel about giving milk to a for-profit enterprise that is also a life-saving one? This is hard to predict...

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February 9, 2010

Part 3. The Haiti Milk Mix-up

What happened to all the milk donated for Haiti?
Soon after I started this blog and got a Twitter account, I saw a flurry of requests for donor milk to save Haitian orphans (this was shortly after the earthquake).  A press release was "going viral" in the breastfeeding community - one from some very trustworthy sources, including La Leche League, HMBANA, and the ILCA.  Like many, I was really moved by these requests and sorry that since my youngest is two and nurses mostly for comfort, I don't make enough milk to donate. 

Later on, I started to see reports that donor milk might not actually be able to get to Haiti.  After that, I read this great article in the Sustainable Mothering blog about why donated breastmilk may not be the best way to help Haiti - for numerous reasons: Haiti, Hell, Good Intentions, and Breast Milk Donations.  So there was a big misunderstanding, it seems.  That total disconnect is described in an article from MSNBC excerpted below:

from Call for breast milk donations in Haiti goes bust

“Tell them not to send it,” ...

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February 8, 2010

Part 2: The Prolacta Milk Bank Story Recap

Breastfeeding moms planning to donate milk to Prolacta (including those who donate to the National Milk Bank, Milkbanking.net  and 75% from those who donate to the IBMP) generally only read that their milk goes to "critically ill babies in the US" or to "severely premature babies."  On most of these sites (Milkin' Mamas being a notable exception) , no mention is made that the milk is processed into a specific line of products (HMFs) and sold by a very specific company (Prolacta) and provided to "critically ill babies" whose parents are lucky enough to be able to afford and have access to Prolacta's HMF products.

This is not a new story - Prolacta was in the news a lot when they began collecting milk in 2006 and in 2007 after the fact they collect 75% of the milk donated to the International Breast Milk Project (IBMP) came under scrutiny.

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February 7, 2010

Part 1: The complex evolution of breastmilk

Human breastmilk is not reproducible, but can be collected from donors.
Breastmilk is full of active proteins and other complex biomolecules. As a scientist who struggles to purify stable, soluble, biologically active proteins (or even small fragments of them), I know how difficult and expensive it is to do this. Figuring out how to produce even one milligram of one protein that is still folded (shaped properly) and active (able to work like a tiny machine) can take a year.

The protein content listed on a formula label refers to what's left of once-active proteins that are now unfolded, inactive, and simply a source of amino acids. Formula provides protein as well as carbohydrate and fat for food calories, it's cheap and easy to produce, and it's nothing like breastmilk.

Breastmilk actually evolved...

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February 4, 2010

… here's how I knock out my nemesis,
GI Jane style.

By Jen Humberson, MD

I am writing this as a mother of two boys whom I nursed for one year each. I’m also a pediatrician, but I’m writing this as a mom. Some of my thoughts below might not be ones I’d share gracefully in the office.

So in two years of nursing I probably had clogged ducts 15 times. I have no idea if this is average, but I certainly know friends who’ve had 5 or so. I got to where I could tell when one was starting and begin my routine ASAP to keep it from getting worse. One thing I DID know from my medical experience: clogged ducts can lead to mastitis, and I do not ever want to have mastitis. I’ve seen lots of people in lots of pain, but none of it compares to the women I’ve seen with untreated mastitis.

How do you know if you have a clogged duct?

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February 1, 2010

"Cracked Nipples" sounds pretty bad, but considering it describes nipples that look and feel like they've been pressed against a belt sander, the term is actually a euphemism. I feel a strong sisterhood with anyone cursed to pass through this dark, dark place on the path to established breastfeeding and a strong jealousy toward the lucky majority who never had to deal with this. This is not a post about pain, which is common; it's about raw, abrated, and even broken skin.  I've been through it twice, and still can't decide which time I was less prepared for.

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