Reader Mail

July 29th, 2007 by MamaBear

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve received many emails and messages thanking me for helping to expose what Prolacta is doing. I remember when I started doing my research, I read a few posts by other bloggers, and I thought what they were doing was really necessary. I was so grateful for their pursuit of the truth. The more I read, however, the more I wanted more information.

I kept looking, but the internet could only give me so much. I remember so many articles and sites, even Salon, a highly respected news website, quoted Prolacta’s price for human milk fortifier, as “about $35-$40,” (I issued a correction, which was printed in the comments section), but no matter where I looked, I couldn’t get an exact quote anywhere. This is why I started making phone calls. I didn’t want some ambiguous estimate; I wanted to know exactly how much they were charging.

That’s when I called Prolacta, found out their price for human milk fortifier was $184.83/ounce, and became the first person on the internet to write about it. I then called the National Milk Bank to see how they were affiliated with Prolacta, and found out they sold all their milk for $1/ounce to Prolacta. Even though they call themselves a “milk bank,” they do not actually distribute any breast milk to needy babies themselves. They’re essentially just a sugar-coated funnel for acquiring Prolacta’s raw material.

I then called iThemba Lethu, the orphanage in South Africa that the International Breast Milk Project donates to, and found out it only houses six children and has its own in-house milk bank (established 2001), which essentially makes the International Breast Milk Project an enormous waste of time and resources (which, other bloggers already had pointed out, would have been the case anyway since it costs so damn much to ship anything that far, let alone frozen milk). I found out that, as of this date, the IBMP has only sent Africa a little over 5,000 ounces of breast milk (all to iThemba Lethu), after they promised they’d send 55,000 ounces PLUS 25% of what was collected after May 31, 2007 (and in my opinion, it’s not very likely the IBMP will finish sending even just the 55,000 ounces by year’s end, allowing them to collect even more donations in the interim).

The Lactivist was the one, along with some other curious souls, that got Prolacta, I mean, the IBMP, to admit that they were only going to send 25% of the milk donations collected after May 31, 2007 to Africa, even though nobody ever mentioned any of this when they were showcased on Oprah. Lauredhel astutely noted in a recent post that the new president of the California chapter of The International Breast Milk Project, April Brown, is none other than Prolacta CEO Elena Medo’s daughter. (I’d actually missed that tidbit when I first read the OC Register article, so thank you, Lauredhel, for pointing it out!)

On the MilkShare Yahoo group, someone posted a link to my site and the Lactivist’s to try to warn potential donors not to fall for these scams. Since that post was made, I’ve received even more mail.

One letter in particular caught my eye, and I want to share it with you.

The email is from Betty (name changed), a woman who donated to the National Milk Bank. She says she was never told her milk would be sold for a profit, or even sold at all. She writes me:

I wish I could find others who have actually gone through this… This really actually hurts me. I didn’t bargain for this. My heart is still sick. I don’t know what to do. I feel very betrayed. All they had to do was provide disclosure…then I would have NOT chosen them…But instead, they gave ‘just enough’ information to get me interested. I should have known it was all too good to be true….*sigh* oh well…I have a pump and endless supply of bottles now. I guess that’s supposed to help me feel better.

The whole reason I picked the National Milk Bank and not a HMBANA bank is because I didn’t WANT the mothers to have to pay for the milk and one of the lovely ladies at NMB assured me that it was as a prescription in the NICU so it was covered completely. …

I know there’s problems inherent with ANY organization, but I just wish there was full-disclosure. I’m VERY into informed consent, and there is NO WAY IN HELL I would have donated had I known they would alter my milk other than pasteurizing it and NO WAY IN HELL I would have donated if I had ANY inkling (my biggest nightmare now) that they were turning my milk into Human Milk Fortifier. If I wanted someone to make a profit, I’d sell it myself.

Betty also shared with me an email she got from the National Milk Bank after she and her husband started making inquiries about what happened to her donated milk and how the National Milk Bank operates. As you read, notice how the writer, a National Milk Bank employee, evades revealing too much truth. My comments are in [brackets]:

Hi Betty,
We received a message from your husband earlier today and wanted to get back to you, but [insert some generic excuse here for why they screened Betty’s husband’s call and didn’t return it].

Prolacta Bioscience is who we work with and where the milk goes, once it has been donated. [Notice the use of the words “who we work with,” not “who we sell our donated milk to.” Often, those selling their milk to Prolacta will say that they are “partnering” with Prolacta, or some other garbage term that disingenuously represents what they’re actually doing.]

Once there, [what followed this was essentially a three-sentence advertisement for Prolacta human milk fortifier. *yawn*].

Another thing I would like to share with you is that in order for the babies to receive the milk, they must have a prescription from their NICU doctor. No prescription equals no milk. [Five more sentences of utter rubbish not relevant to anything at all.]

In answer to your concern, we do not sell our milk to the public. [Here they should have added, “We sell it to Prolacta for $1/ounce.”]

However, we do receive a profit, and the small profit we receive allows us to cater to our moms the way we do. [What?! They’re a for-profit entity? Just like Prolacta? *Break to check nationalmilkbank.com* Yup, nowhere on the website does it say it is a non-profit anymore. Funny that. I will update my links page now.]

We are able to supply our moms with …[Spare me your sales pitch. What you should be writing is “our donors supply us with our paycheck.”]

In addition, we are not established under a hospital or a medical office which makes it very difficult to claim non profit due to the guidelines and strict adherences to follow under government regulations. [Or, to put it more succinctly, “we make a profit off the milk donations we receive by appearing to look like a non-profit, but actually, we’re not.”]

If we can answer any other questions or concerns, please email or call us at 866-522-6455. Thank you and have a blessed day. [Nice touch. I’ll bet that last sentence alone is enough to make your donors forget they were conned.]

[Name removed]
National Milk Bank

If you’ve had a similar experience with Prolacta, The National Milk Bank, the International Breast Milk Project, or a midwifery/birth center, please post a comment or write me privately. With your permission, I’ll post it here.

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7 Responses to “Reader Mail”

  1. lauredhel Says:

    Wow, that NMB email gives a VERY different picture from the protestations (on mothering.com forums and elsewhere) of clear, full, up-front disclosure.

    And the NMB webpage used to claim openly that they were non-profit, until activists started to get on their back about it. You can see an example of that .

    The “non profit” was deleted sometime between February and April 2006.

  2. lauredhel Says:

    URL didn’t work. here: http://web.archive.org/web/20051123215053/www.nationalmilkbank.org/aboutNMB_latest_news.html

  3. MamaBear Says:

    Haha! THANK YOU, once again Lauredhel! You ROCK!!!

  4. Amanda Says:

    $184.83/ounce?!?!?

    I was almost duped as well. When my son was 4 months old and we were successfully breastfeeding, I thought about pumping extra to donate somewhere. I left a message at my local HMBANA bank but didn’t get a response. A few days later I saw the Oprah show and minutes later pulled up the IBMP website and filled out the application to donate. It sounded good. I wanted to help.

    So I went through the process, completed the blood test and received my pump & supplies. I began pumping, but in the meantime I stumbled upon a message board post about Prolacta/IBMP and became suspicious. The lactivist’s recent blog post is what made the decision for me not to donate to them. I sent an email to let them know why I would not be donating and that was that.

    I am glad I did not send them any milk. If I would have, only to find this out after the fact, I would be very upset. Their pump with “Prolacta” on the side is hardly a consolation prize!

  5. Adele Says:

    Oh, I enjoyed your brackets! Thanks for taking out the spin and making it clear. The bit that made me angriest was the sign off, have a BLESSED day. This is NOT about Christian values.

  6. Mary B Says:

    This is beyond disturbing- it makes me sick (and I never donated)! Thank goodness YOU are getting the truth out there!

  7. Elizabeth-The Whole Family Says:

    I had the same issue as others above. I had always wanted to donate Breastmilk, and when I saw Oprah’s thing on the Internatonal Breastmilk Project I decided it was time to get involved. I went through the screening process and even began pumping milk. Then, I read The Lactivist’s Blog about the IBMP and started doing my own research. I have never sent them any milk! Thank goodness.

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