Friday, June 24, 2011

Where is your donor milk going?

I have never been a big fan of Prolacta, the for-profit donor milk company. I see some value in there finally being a profit motive behind marketing and using donor milk; I would like to see human milk-based fortifiers used for preemies, instead of the formula-based ones that are used now, and I can very much support that part of their mission. But the more I see of them, the less and less comfortable I become with their practices.

The things that have made me most uncomfortable about Prolacta are the way they recruit mothers. They have a network of recruiters - hospitals, independent LCs, doctors, etc. - who are encouraged, and sometimes paid, to suggest donating milk to mothers and route it to Prolacta. They also have various "milk banks" who serve, again, as essentially fronts for Prolacta: making the donations appear no different from those to non-profit milk banks, but obscuring the fact that the company will profit off of these donations. When non-profit HMBANA milk banks are in critical need of donations, this routes potential donors away from non-profit banks without giving those donors a chance to honestly assess where they would like their milk to go.

Amy West, at Just West of Crunchy has a great post up about this issue with Prolacta, as well as others. Such as the fact that Prolacta is partnering with Abbott Nutrition (a formula company) to market its products (alongside Abbott's own formulas), and now has an ex-Nestle exec on the board.

I encourage you to read the whole article as well as the comments, where Amy West addresses questions and concerns about her information and clarifies why, exactly, Prolacta's profit on donor milk is an issue. And if you have milk to donate, do your own research so you are clear on where your milk is going, who will receive it, and who, if anyone, will profit from it.


Becky said...

We like Eats on Feets for milk donation. You know exactly where it came from and where it's going because the donation in mom-to-mom.

JoyFilled said...

This is just one of the many reasons I choose to donate locally. It's wonderful to actually meet the moms and their babies (and the same for them to meet me, their donor).

Rebecca said...

@Becky and Joy: I think it's wonderful that you donate locally/mom-to-mom but let's remember that milk banking, done honestly and correctly, reaches babies that mom-to-mom donation cannot reach and who need human milk the most - the very sick and premature babies. Especially since Eats on Feets came on the scene, I feel like there has been a privileging of mom-to-mom over milk bank donation in some communities. Yes, it is usually much more fulfilling to meet a mother and baby and know your milk will be going directly to them. It is wonderful to give that mother milk for free or for a much lower cost than the milk banks, knowing she wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. Done correctly and safely, I think mom-to-mom donation is great. But (non-profit) milk banks are struggling for donations and there is absolutely value in what they do. I think if you are able to donate to a milk bank - and I know not everyone can, because of the restrictions they have to place on their donors - you should try to do so. The mothers who are restricted from donating to banks for reasons that are still acceptable to recipients in their community (for example they are taking fenugreek) should absolutely pursue mother-to-mother donation. Anyway, this is getting long and I think I'll just turn it into a post! But thanks for your thoughts and I think it's fantastic you are donating milk no matter how you are doing it.