I’ve given this a lot of thought. The International Breast Milk Project is a project that sends breast milk to feed starving HIV+ orphans in South Africa. It was founded by Jill Youse, a lactating mother who had gallons of surplus breast milk she’d pumped for her daughter. She wanted to do something good with the milk, so she found an orphanage in
There are details I’ve become aware of (this blogger helped uncover some facts and effected enough change to get straighter answers out of IBMP’s FAQ page) and other things I’ve thought of since first reading about it that have given me pause.
It costs a lot of money to ship, well, anything, to Africa from the
Since the non-profit milk banks couldn’t help her (probably too much red tape for such a project anyway), she sought help elsewhere. Prolacta Bioscience, a for-profit milk processing entity, offered to process the milk for free. With the support of Prolacta, now the project could get underway. Somehow Oprah found out about what was happening (I wonder how…Was this the plan from the beginning? Donate to
Then the Oprah effect took place: suddenly Prolacta…, I mean, The International Breast Milk Project, was literally flooded with breast milk donations. It’s estimated that over 50,000 ounces of breast milk were donated, with the intent that it would all go to needy HIV-positive orphaned African babies.
All of that donated milk, according to the International Breast Milk Project website, ended up being donated to
On the IBMP’s FAQ page, it states that Prolacta does not sell human milk fortifier by the ounce, so it’s hard to get a price for it. I called up a local NICU here in
Undeterred, I then phoned a pediatrician friend of mine who’s done quite a bit of work in NICUs. He told me that for some preemies who are fed breast milk, sometimes fortifiers (bovine milk-based) are added to the breast milk to boost its calories. He said the two biggest manufacturers of breast milk fortifiers are Similac and Enfamil. He also mentioned that Similac and Enfamil donate large amounts of their products (formula and fortifiers) to hospitals, so that’s usually what the hospitals use when fortifiers are called for. He had never heard of Prolacta Bioscience.
After talking to him, I was even more confused. What’s better, to have two powerful formula companies maintain control over the nation’s (the world’s?) hospitals, thereby standing in the way of baby-friendly initiatives and perpetuating the bottle-feeding culture? Or is it better to allow Prolacta Bioscience to take advantage of the charity of generous lactating mothers in order to try and take over the human-milk-fortifier market? Ye-gads, I’m not sure there’s an easy answer to any of this.
I never found out what the price of the human milk fortifier Prolacta sells was, but I’ll keep looking.
Something struck me, though, as I was perusing the FAQ page for the International Breast Milk Project. It mentioned that for the 75% of donated milk that Prolacta gets to keep, Prolacta pays the International Breast Milk Project $1 per ounce. (The money gets used by the IBMP to fund breast milk banks in Africa, which is in the long-run a lot more cost-effective than shipping milk from the
Another item of interest: my pediatrician friend went over the information provided by Prolacta for the human milk fortifier made from 100% human milk. He said it seemed like the osmolality of their human milk fortifier was a little high to be safe. Translation: the concentrated human milk seems a little too concentrated, which could potentially cause problems like dehydration or renal failure or worse, like depletion of the free water in the baby’s blood causing really bad things like swelling of the brain and brain damage. (Makes me wonder how safe the formula-company-made milk fortifiers are…) He also noted that there weren’t any clinical trials of Prolacta’s product in use that he could find, which further made him suspicious of recommending it for any of his patients. Hmmm… Seems like this human milk fortifier made out of 100% human milk, while it sounds like a great idea to the uninitiated, might need a few more years of research.
Important note: Although what I’ve written may make it sound like I don’t agree with the International Breast Milk Project, I have to admit that even 25% of what’s donated to the IBMP going to
Personally, if I had a large stash of milk to donate, I’d probably find someone right here in
To donate breast milk locally: http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/. Milkshare is an online service that can hook up women who need breast milk for their babies with those who have a surplus of it. Please read up on the risks and benefits of receiving raw breast milk on the MilkShare site before signing up as a recipient. (Breast milk donors can sign up free, but breast milk recipients must pay $15 for the service – an absolute bargain, if you ask me.)