pregnancy, birth & lactation services… at home
There is an uneasy balance that has to be maintained by the professional lactation counselor. While most of us enter this field due to a personal passion to help women and babies have a successful breastfeeding experience, we also have to pay our bills and we have to be able to financially justify the hours we spend each day researching & consulting.
If I could offer help for no charge, I would. I’ve actually considered becoming a not-for-profit entity so I can do fundraising on my own, so I can offer assistance to anyone regardless of ability to pay. But my husband works two jobs to keep us afloat and I can’t justify NOT charging when his work funds my training…
I am, however, very uncomfortable with companies who seem to profit from the breastfeeding relationship. Now, I am grateful that companies exist who offer breastfeeding related products- women who breastfeed sometimes enjoy using a pump (sometimes need one in the case of a medically fragile infant), but I’ve begun seeing insidious signs that as breastfeeding grows again in our country, so will the profiteers who hope to exploit breastfeeding couples…
I’ve recently begun seeing ads all over the breastfeeding blogosphere for a contest by a company called Milk For Thought http://www.milkforthought.com to bring a pink bus into readers’ cities. The pink bus is supposedly there to promote breastfeeding in your community, where it will make a stop on it’s nationwide ‘Latch On America!’ tour. The company? Run by a 27 year old, single, non-father. He funds his site, the bus, his staff- the whole company from money he earned, I guess, between college and his mid 20s.
Maybe I’m just a skeptic. But what is the genuine motivation for this company? Admittedly, they advertise that they will abide by the WHO’s breastfeeding code http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/code_english.pdf and have, thus far, done nothing that warrants my extreme caution. But I still wonder. I still wonder ‘what’s in it for him?’ Why is this guy who has no vested interest in breastfeeding so keen on getting into the breastfeeding biz? Is this just some reverse sexism on my part? Is it some negative suspicious tendancy I should just get over?
Yesterday, I received in the mail a brochure from a company called Milkin’ Mammas http://milkinmamas.com/ as I read through the website, it became clear that this sister team has been hired by a lab that processes human breast milk for babies in the NICU. The lab pays these moms to be the the face of their donor-recruitment wing. Once the donors have been thoroughly screened, the lab used the breastmilk as a base and whips up a concoction that is more acceptable to physicians (who after all, must be convinced that breastmilk is better for neo-nates than a man-made product like formula by taking breastmilk and ‘man-making’ it) and then sells it to hospitals.
Anyone else feel disturbed by this? On their home page, Milkin’ Mammas has a picture of a pre-term baby (cue emotional manipulation of nursing mothers). The implication is that moms can donate to very ill babies (a good, wonderful thing), but there’s a veil over the fact that a for-profit lab engineered this system that is now using moms & ill babies to make a profit… Yes, I know that moms WANT to offer life-saving human milk to sick babies and the very ill pre-term infants will be helped by the service- but they are also being exploited. And that’s not cool.
Maybe a better option to donate milk to a preemie would be to go through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America http://www.hmbana.org/ which is in desperate need of milk for babies? Or if you wish, you could donate mother-to-mother through an organization like Human Milk 4 Human Babies (state chapters found on Facebook).
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just super sensitive, but I believe as a perinatal professional, it’s my job to be on the look out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. Be careful, friends. Ask yourself ‘Can I CLEARLY see the cash flow in this operation? Do I understand how money is being made? Am I ok with the mechanism?’
What do you think? Is this a concern or am I being over-sensitive