Execs in Desperate Need of Donor Breast Milk (part 2)
Posted 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 banks, 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 for these banks (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.
10/20/06 Blisstree.com Milk Donors Beware – Choose a Milk Bank Carefully!
05/22/07 The Lactivist Is The International Breast Milk Project a Scam?
09/02/07 Breastfeedingsymbol.org Thinking of Donating Your Breastmilk? Read This First.
Recently, Prolacata has been in the news again, both for research that shows the benefits of human breast milk HMF and for their business partnership with Abbott Nutrition, makers of Similac. I learned about Prolacta from this on from The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Formula maker to sell human milk product. I also found a post by blogger Valerie W. McClain Human Milk Patent Pending and some discussion at the Mothering Magazine forums about Prolacta.
Now, I understand that the profitability of Prolacta allows them to do more research and help more premature babies. I also understand that the more breast milk Prolacta gets, the more HMF products they will be able to supply for premature babies. For severely premature babies, a system for increasing the caloric density of their mother's milk without exposing them to cow milk or soy proteins can make a critical difference. For them, HMF is not a formula supplement - it's a biotherapeutic medication.
So why does Prolacta think they need to hide behind the curtain and hand-wave about where the milk goes? Why is there no mention of Prolacta or HMF or developing breastmilk-based biotherapeutics on the National Milk Bank website? Why does the IBMP speak so hesitantly and defensively about their relationship with Prolacta?
Breastfeeding moms tend to be well-educated women who are very capable about making decisions based on complete information. Who decided these women can't handle the facts and instead should know nothing more that the milk goes somewhere that "helps babies" (now run along, ladies, it's time for man-talk)? It's not like the milk is being turned into high priced hand-cream or something.
Biotherapeutics from breast milk make sense. Some smart people looked at the amazing medical treatments that can be made from human blood and realized that breast milk could also have important medicinal properties. They invested a lot of time and money into researching whether medically relevant therapeutics could be derived from human breast milk. They found that yes, this is the case. They made those products. They charge money for these products, just like all companies who develop and manufacture medical treatments do. Why are they afraid of making their mission a clearly stated goal of the many milk banks they run?
The only answers that make sense are
A. They think that breastfeeding moms will stop giving them milk
B. They don't want to have to pay donors for breastmilk
Option A: Yes - some women may choose to provide milk to a non-profit bank instead, like the HMBANA which provides breast milk (in milk form) to babies in need. Others may choose to provide milk to a company interested in developing biotherapeutics. For every mom who wants her milk to be non-profit all the way, there will be others who don't really care as long as they are helping someone with their extra milk (probably the majority) and still others who want to see as many lifesaving medications developed from human breast milk as possible. The point is, Prolacta milk banks should be called Prolacta milk banks. All of this "processing partner" stuff is ridiculous.
Option B: I'll discuss this in my final post on this topic.
My next post will be more about how the earthquake in Haiti inspired a great call to arms (or boobs). The subsequent news - that the donor milk flowing in could not get to Haiti and might not be as helpful as we'd thought - has made me (and others) question the great hue and cry for milk donations to help third world orphans from institutions who know most of the donated milk will never get to them.