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International Breast Milk Project


  01:12:16 pm, by Nimble   , 632 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Ethics, People

International Breast Milk Project

Perusing the surprisingly interesting Freakonomics blog (I reviewed his book here), I came across his entry on the International Breast Milk Project, started by Jill Youse, who was producing way more breast milk than her baby could ever drink. With the charity so far, they have sent two cases of breast milk to Durban in South Africa, which has been ravaged pretty nastily by AIDS and is probably set to suffer even more from it through AIDS denialism.

It's interesting that breast milk and breast feeding in general have come back into vogue after years of formula, formula, formula.

Formula has been causing issues in Africa, not because of the quality of the formula itself, but because of the poor quality of the water it can be diluted with.

I've seen some irrationality going on, though. Overly sensitive people accusing breast feeders of trying to make them feel guilty for feeding their babies formula, though there are some stories about why the people might be sensitive about it in the first place:

I'm sure you heard the horror story about my LC ten years ago, who told me that Alex would be sicker, dumber and unable to reach his full potential because I chose to formula feed him. I do believe that was a pretty good attempt at "trying to make me feel guilty". And, in Austin, when Katie was an infant, there was this lady at Little Gym. Her infant daughter was the same age (within days) as Katie, and her older daughter was the same age as Alex. All the time, almost every single time we were there watching our kids do the gym stuff, she'd comment, "Oh, is your baby sick? Oh, that's right, I forgot, bottle fed babies just look sick all the time." and other ____ like that. I was too humiliated by her behavior to make a scene defending myself (hard to believe, I know).

There are other threads around where breast-feeders are deemed by some members of the public as selfish:

But back to the point---there is a tendency around here to think of breastfeeding as something only "crunchy granola" moms do. And there are others who think women should never breastfeed in public (I had developed quite the "c'mon---____ with me!" glare, given in response to people who would look at me like I was the most revolting person in existance for feeding my child---and yeah, I was discreet, and yeah, there was a helluva lot less breast shown while I was breastfeeding than say, on the average tank-top wearer). I've heard women who work in offices complain about treatment by coworkers---that by having a private place to pump, they are being given "special treatment" and must think they're "all that". There's an overarching attitude that it's breastfeeding moms that want the whole world to revolve around them, and if you are determined to breastfeed, you have to steel yourself against these hostile attitudes. There's not much cultural support.

(There are a few other pretty ignorant anti-formula-feeding posts on there, too, though)

God, people, at the end of the day, breast-feeding is great if you can do it, formula will do if you can't (breast-feeding isn't as easy or automatic or sometimes even as possible as it may seem), though it's purportedly a little tougher on the child for the first couple of months. As an adoptee from the baby stage, I'm pretty sure I didn't get breast-fed, and I'm no sickly, dumb, floppy monster. (Shut up, Adam! :) )

It's nice of the Breast Milk Project folks to help provide food that might otherwise be wasted, in a safer form than formula can bring in parts of South Africa. I don't know how much of an overall impact it may make, but kudos!


Comment from: greg laden [Visitor]  
greg laden

One thing I find interesting about this is that there is a cap on the amount of breastmilk they will buy, and they will not pay anything close to market value, in order to avoid a situation where women will starve their own children in order to make more money selling milk

I diagree with this policy. I think it is just an excuse to have a conveneine policy. The policy may be flawed becuse:

a) It is the case that a woman can under normal circumstances produce enough milk for twice or even thrice her baby’s demand. The physiology of this is understood. Women do have twins, etc., now and then, after all …

b) It is extremely patronizing to assume that a person would do this. Yes, it can happen. But there are probably LOTS of things people do where they can enhance their take by doing something nefarious, yet we do not routinely patronize people this way.

01/15/07 @ 09:16
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  

Hi there, Greg!

I couldn’t find information about limits. Perhaps it’s a function of which milk bank?

The donor information in the UK seems to have no such limits, but it also doesn’t look like there’s any payout to the donors. I surmise it’s just expected to be charity:

This seemed reasonable:

Will you have enough milk?

The body adjusts the amount of milk produced to meet the changing needs of the baby at different times and will respond in the same way if mothers express regularly. If you are worried that your own baby may not be getting enough, you can express after your baby has fed.
Milk donors, like all mothers, benefit from a healthy diet and plenty of rest.

How much milk should you express?

Every drop counts. There are no rules about how much milk you should express - you donate what you can. Different women produce different amounts at different times.
You will find that the amount you are able to express will vary from day to day and as your baby grows. Even small amounts are valuable to the milk bank.

The Donor FAQ from the Prolacta link:

Will I have enough milk for my baby if I donate?
Your body makes milk on a supply and demand basis and adjusts to the amount of milk needed. If you are worried about your baby getting enough milk, you can express an hour or so after feeding your baby. If your baby’s doctor is happy with your baby’s weight gain, there is no need to worry about having enough milk.

How much milk should I express?
This is up to you. There are no rules about how much you should express. Different donors produce different amounts of milk at different times of the day. What works for one mom may not work for another. Find out what works best for you and your baby. And remember, even small amounts of milk can feed several very small babies. In fact, two ounces of expressed milk can feed a premature baby for one to two days.

Their rule about payment is similar to the UK one:

Will I be paid for my donations?
Donors are not paid for their milk. For a variety of reasons, donors in the US are not paid for their breast milk. However, we do cover all related expenses and all donors are given an electric breast pump to keep, even after donations have stopped. The milk bank does receive payment from Prolacta Bioscience for the milk it collects. This payment is intended to defray the costs of operating the milk bank and allows the milk bank to provide lactation support services to the local community.

I haven’t been able to find the origin of the no-payment guidelines, but they are omnipresent. Perhaps they’re following the example of the U.S. in restricting payments, though there are apparently “informal guidelines for payment” for so-called Professional Donors.

From here:

Professional Blood Donors: Blood donors who get either monetary benefit or helps of various other kinds in return for the Blood that they donate. Such donors are statistically more likely to carry some infection. Their Blood is more likely to be of a lower standard as they tend to donate more frequently.

Professional (paid) donors are not often turned away. There is, in fact, in most organizations, a place and an informal policy in place to manage these donors. To give some idea of the policies that make this Blood acceptable, the policy may read: “….. if a blood establishment provides monetary payment to a donor, all products collected from that donor that are intended for transfusion and that are collected during the donation at which the donor received the monetary incentive should be labeled with the ‘paid donor’ classification statement. These products include Whole Blood, Red Blood Cells, Fresh Frozen Plasma, and Platelets. Monetary payment includes cash, in any amount, or items that are readily convertible to cash. If a cash payment in any amount is made to a group to which the donor belongs, this would be considered a monetary payment to the donor and the products collected from the donor should be labeled with the ‘paid donor’ classification statement” etc.

…and here

Elimination of payment for donation — Most organizations have eliminated payment for donating blood, such as money. Since the late 1970s, volunteer donors have been the source of almost all whole blood and blood components (red blood cells, platelets, fresh frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate) collected and transfused in the United States. Paid donors are sometimes the source of other blood products (albumin, immunoglobulins, and factors VIII and IX). These products undergo additional manufacturing steps to protect the recipient.

I doubt there’s anything underhanded or terribly patronizing going on here, unless there’s some other policy that’s being followed…?

01/15/07 @ 19:21