A Philosophical Question

October 20th, 2007 by MamaBear

If you know a person is lying and making lots of money by lying, but they’re also doing a little bit of good within all that lying, does it make the lying O.K.? This is an honest, open-ended question, which I still have no answer for.

Now, completely different topic (lest you think that question above has anything to do with what I’m about to report)… Jill Youse is in the news again! She is ABC News’ Person of the Week this week. I almost died… Hyperventilating with laughter… When I saw that. Congratulations, Jill!

You know what I found really funny about the second ABC News report on the International Breast Milk Project? There was NO mention of a few really important details (which makes me think ABC News either did a sloppy job with this one or that these important details were deliberately not mentioned — why, I don’t know; could be for any number of reasons):

  1. Prolacta gets at least 75% of the milk donated to the International Breast Milk Project. According to the IBMP website, this 75% of the donated breastmilk is exchanged for a $1/ounce “donation” from Prolacta (in other words, Prolacta buys at least 75% of whatever is donated to the IBMP for $1/ounce). On an older version of the IBMP website, it used to say that 100% of this money would be donated to various African outreach organizations (like the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya). None of that money was actually donated, and then when I (and another blogger) started asking questions about the “100%,” the IBMP website was changed to say that, actually, some of that money would go to “operational expenses” within the IBMP. How convenient. It was vague enough that now there’s no telling how much will go to “operational expenses” within the U.S. and how much will go to Africa.
  2. The money received by the International Breast Milk Project in exchange for breastmilk, which, to date, is estimated at over $50,000 (probably well over double that figure by now, given how much time has elapsed, but let’s be conservative), was not mentioned in the ABC News report at all. The money the IBMP claims to have sent to Africa on its “September Update” page was donated privately, some of it by Prolacta’s other milk funnel, The National Milk Bank, to the IBMP. From the IBMP website:

    “Because of your generosity, in addition to shipping thousands of ounces of donor milk to iThemba Lethu in Durban, South Africa, we have donated $13,000 to the Lewa Children’s Home in Kenya, another $15,000 for clean water and health care projects in Tanzania, and $5,100 for hospital equipment in Cameroon through Dr. Peter McCormick’s Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust.”

    All that money the IBMP allegedly sent to Africa? The IBMP sent it before May 31, 2007… Before the IBMP allegedly started receiving money from Prolacta in exchange for the milk (according to Jill Youse, through email correspondence). All that money was privately donated, some of it from the National Milk Bank (again, according to Jill Youse, through email). Any money the IBMP made and donated after May 31, 2007, there is STILL no mention of anywhere, not on the IBMP website, not from Jill Youse through email correspondence (I asked, and last I heard from her, none of the money had been donated yet), and certainly not in the ABC News report. I do not know if the money has already been donated, or if it’s being put in a bank awaiting donation for the “early 2008″ construction of the Lewa Children’s Home clinic, or if it’s being used mostly to cover “operational expenses” now. Speaking of “operational expenses,” it’s difficult to know what percentage of the money made from selling milk to Prolacta will make its way to Africa. The ABC News report didn’t even mention money, so it’s not like I’m looking at ABC News as a reliable IBMP update information source, kwim?

  3. The ABC News report did not mention the dates of the milk shipments, or even how many total shipments to Africa have been made since the IBMP was founded. According to my tally (which was established by calling South Africa and asking Penny Reimers at iThemba Lethu how many shipments she received), there have been a total of four shipments already sent to Africa, not including the one that allegedly will be done now. If the 50,000+ ounces of breastmilk actually make their way to Africa (which I am confident that they will, since it’s so highly publicized), that will bring the grand total of shipments the IBMP has made since April 28, 2006 (the date of the first shipment) to FIVE (please, Anna Coutsoudis or Penny Reimers, if you can confirm or correct this, write me and I will). The total number of ounces donated by the IBMP to Africa would then be around 62,000 ounces in a year and six months. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, in absolute terms it is a lot, but if you compare it to the amount of milk the IBMP has received from generous breast milk donors, it’s actually a pittance. The IBMP received an estimated 65,000 ounces of breastmilk from its generous donors in just two months (June and July 2007)!!! From the IBMP “August 2007 Update” letter: “In June, we collected over 30,000 ounces of milk, and in July we collected over 35,000 ounces of milk.” If you assume the IBMP only receives half the lowest amount (30,000 ounces) for August and September, that’s an additional 30,000 ounces, also not going to Africa (because, according to the IBMP, the 50,000+ ounces of milk going to Africa right now were all donated before May 31, 2007). Details, details…

The first ABC News report on the International Breast Milk Project (aired October 4, 2006) also had a few important details missing. For instance, the report aired on October 4, 2006 and there was no mention of Prolacta. The milk that arrived in Africa for the second shipment (the one filmed in the first ABC News report) was raw breastmilk, unpasteurized. That shipment was delivered free by DHL. Prolacta had not officially partnered with the IBMP when the footage was filmed, but the partnership with Prolacta was in effect by the time the report aired (October 4, 2006). Oh, but it’s just details, and nobody will notice, right? Nobody except anyone who’s paying attention.

Look, I have nothing against a project that sends breastmilk to African orphans. Who would have a problem with a program like that? It’s altruism; it’s a beautiful, touching concept. More importantly, it gets people talking about (and therefore, normalizing) breastmilk (and by proxy, breastfeeding and lactation). Does the IBMP do more harm than good? I don’t know. More good than harm? Hard to say. Does the IBMP do some good in the world? Clearly, yes, in many ways. Is the harm is does worth it? I don’t know. That’s the part I have trouble with. The partnership with Prolacta cannot be ignored, and is not without negative consequences.

My only point in writing any of what I write is so that people become more informed and more aware of what’s really going on behind the scenes. If you have all the information at your disposal and you still feel like it’s a net benefit to donate to the International Breast Milk Project (and you are fully aware that if you do, you will forfeit any rights to your milk and that the majority of your milk — very likely ALL of it, statistically speaking — will actually go to Prolacta and be sold for a profit here in the United States and NOT make its way to Africa), I have NO problem with that. The part I have a problem with is the NOT knowing. The part that bothers me is that some really generous women will donate their breastmilk thinking that what they’re signing up for is not what they’re actually signing up for. …If you catch my drift.

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30 Responses to “A Philosophical Question”

  1. Lesley Says:

    What worries me is that woman who have the ability to pump enough to donate will hear about what Prolacta is doing, and then feel cheated and let down…and then instead of continuing to donate their milk to another bank (like HMBANA) they will let it run down the sink. I know if I had donated milk to this project and then found out about Prolacta’s hand being so deeply into it, I would be really hesitant to donate elsewhere.
    But my issue, aside from the lack of disclosure, is how much Prolacta stands to make off of donated breastmilk. I’m all for large amounts of the milk staying in the US and going to preemies in NICU’s…but it should not be costing so much money for the hospitals to buy it from Prolacta. That’s the disgusting part, as far as I am concerned. I mean, why in the name of everything that is beautiful would a hospital pay a fortune for breastmilk when formula is so much cheaper? Why would the average parent? I think it helps to perpetuate the myth that breastmilk is some gold standard that is unacheivable by the average person.
    Another well written post Mambear, well done!

  2. MamaBear Says:

    You know, Lesley, that worried me too (women reading this and being gun-shy about milk donation in the future), but the alternative to disclosing the truth is to say nothing and let the Prolacta status quo continue… I couldn’t do that. When you compare telling the truth to the alternative (letting the lie continue), there’s really no comparison. I have confidence that women are smart enough to learn from this, be more cautious, and, if they still feel they want to donate their breastmilk (which I’m hoping they will), they’ll find a way to make sure a baby in need gets it… Remember, I also talk about MilkShare, which, as of right now, is the easiest way for women to donate their milk DIRECTLY to a recipient baby in need — no middleman! Kelley Faulkner has done a wonderful, beautiful, TRULY altruistic deed in creating the MilkShare network. She’s not greedy. She only asks for a one-time $15 donation from recipients for the privilege of accessing the MilkShare Yahoo group. She asks nothing of breastmilk donors. That $15 probably barely covers the expenses for keeping her site up and running, and MilkShare is a godsend for those of us who need the milk for our babies! (Thanks Kelley! :))

    Milkshare: http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/

    (Btw, Lesley, thanks for the compliment! :D)

  3. Sarah Says:

    Everyone must be faced with the deffensive. It disgusts me that someone would be apalled by something that helps so many. If you are giving your breastmilk for the well being and growth of a helpless baby who cares how it gets there. Even non-profit organizations have to make money to survive. There is no shame in it. Perhaps you should look at the bigger picture rather than the dollars and cents. That is exactly what MY COUSIN, Jill Youse has done. She is more concerned about the well being of children everywhere than the all-mighty dollar. Furthermore, breastmilk is gold. It has been shown to increase the well-being of the infant and boost it’s chance at life where it may not have the chance. Maybe you should focus on the good in the world rather than seeking out the bad.

  4. MamaBear Says:

    Sarah,

    I think there are probably a few details about the IBMP your COUSIN (I didn’t realize “cousin” required ALL CAPS, but I stand corrected) didn’t tell you. But don’t feel bad; I’m sure she doesn’t tell a lot of people those details. You could ask your other COUSIN, Will, though. It’s a safe bet he probably knows whatever she does, even if they don’t tell YOU.

    Also, Sarah, I think from what you’ve written you don’t understand how money works, so let me break it down for you: If your baby is in the NICU and needs breastmilk, would you rather pay $3.50/ounce for pasteurized milk from a truly non-profit organization (HMBANA milk bank), or would you rather pay ~$35/ounce to Prolacta, for an identical product? Which would you be able to afford more easily? Why should you have to pay ten times more for the same thing? Their human milk fortifier is even more expensive: $184.83/ounce. Funny, I’m not sure even Jill knew this when she originally made a deal with Prolacta, but she should know now, and she’s continuing to do business with them, so she’s a part of what they’re doing. Must be for a good reason ($$$).

    FWIW, I AM looking at the bigger picture, Sarah. Maybe you should take your blinders off.

  5. MamaBear Says:

    Also, Sarah, you said, “It disgusts me that someone would be apalled by something that helps so many.”

    The only thing that appalls me about the IBMP is that it’s not transparent about what it does with the breastmilk donations and the money made from the breastmilk sold to Prolacta…. And that since the IBMP signed on with Prolacta, it has been very shady about what happens to the milk.

    What do you mean by “helps so many?” Do you mean the SIX kids getting milk for a year? What about all the DOZENS of women who donated that milk, thinking it would ALL go to help African kids in some way (most of the milk doesn’t even go to Africa, and none of the money made from selling their milk has AT ALL)? I think those women have the right to know what’s really happening to their donations. Who knows? Maybe with enough people writing about the IBMP, maybe the International Breast Milk Project will finally do what it keeps saying it will. Can’t trust it to self-regulate truthfully; that’s for sure.

  6. Concerned Mom Says:

    I don’t understand what the big deal is. The Red Cross sells blood all the time. So what is the difference? If it goes to the US to help babies or another country? I checked into the non profit and they wanted me to pay all the shipping, foot the whole bill and donate the milk too. There is no milk banks in my area and Prolacta is willing to pay for shipping. Yes, cash donations are great. But if I had cash to donate I would. I don’t, but I have lots of milk. I just really don’t understand what the problem is??? I checked into non profits and frankly they didn’t want out of state donations.

  7. Song Says:

    Sarah writes: “Furthermore, breastmilk is gold.”

    And if your name is Prolacta, that “gold” very conveniently turns into bigtime dollar signs. Cha-ching. Ain’t it swell that well-intentioned mothers everywhere can spare 75% of their “gold” for a decidedly-NOT-remotely-nonprofit institution like Prolacta?

    And my goodness, ain’t it swell for Prolacta that apparently no one in America understands that there are plenty of lactating women in Africa, and that it would take a lot less money to equip THEM to donate safely to orphans in Africa than it costs to run the IBMP? Oh, but then Prolacta wouldn’t get their 75% cut, would they?

  8. MamaBear Says:

    Concerned Mom,

    A couple of questions for you:

    (1) What non-profit milk bank told you you had to pay for shipping? I’ve called both the HMBANA Denver milk bank and the HMBANA Austin milk bank and was told repeatedly by both of them that if a woman is out-of-state, the nearest HMBANA milk bank would foot the bill for shipping.

    and

    (2) Have you tried donating your milk through MilkShare? There are always dozens of families at any given time, all over this country, looking for breastmilk donations on the MilkShare Yahoo group. All the recipients pay for shipping, if it’s needed. If you want to donate your breastmilk directly to a baby in need, at no cost to the baby’s family (except what it costs them to ship the milk, which they will do gladly), then MilkShare is the place to do it: http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/. You could even meet your recipient family if you find one in your area. And if you do find one in your area, it means you wouldn’t have to ship anything at all, just happily meet the family you’re helping out and hand them your milk.

    There is simply NO good reason for anyone to donate their breastmilk directly to Prolacta. The other options available help far more babies than Prolacta ever will, even with their “revolutionary” new product (human milk fortifier). Even if you have a preemie and you had to get milk from a milk bank, you could get it from a HMBANA bank (they do ship to other states) for FAR less than you would have to pay for a similar Prolacta product.

    Do you understand now what “the big deal” is?

  9. MamaBear Says:

    Song,

    Yup, that’s right, gotta remember that 75% cut… Empowering African women to take care of African orphans isn’t nearly as lucrative as deceiving American women… In fact, you could say empowering African women doesn’t make anyone any money at all… So I guess the only “logical” answer for Prolacta is to continue deceiving American women, because it means at least 75% (or more) of the breastmilk donated by them through the IBMP goes straight to what’s really important: making money.

  10. Concerned Mom Says:

    I checked into MilkShare and I don’t agree with it! The donor has to pay for the cost like donor screening (those blood test can be very expensive when your insurance doesn’t cover it) and I checked into those non profits and they would not cover the cost of shipping for me! Milkshare might be great for some Moms but not for me. Guess nobody should donate blood to redcross either cause they make money too. Sorry I just don’t agree with you.

  11. Concerned Mom Says:

    Just wanted to add that Milkshare states on their website and example contract that says donor pays for screening cost. (that turned me off right there) Plus I really don’t want to meet a family…I just want to help a baby. And most of the nonprofit’s state that they don’t handle out of state donors. One non profit even was going to rent me a breastpump. How come they don’t pay for it? I couldn’t be a donor if I was having to pay the cost. My doctor didn’t have a problem with Prolacta . Maybe nonprofits need to rethink their policy of not paying for screening donors and shipping for out of state donors. If they (nonprofits) would pay for all those cost I wouldn’t have a problem donating to them. That would include, blood screening, shipping and a breast pump.

  12. MamaBear Says:

    Concerned Mom,

    You don’t have to agree with MilkShare. You don’t have to agree with me either. But I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what MilkShare is. The guidelines on MilkShare are just that: guidelines. If you don’t want to pay for screening costs, then you negotiate that with your recipient. As a recipient of breastmilk, I would have been happy to pay for all costs incurred by my milk donors. I’d want to see receipts to verify that that’s what the money is for, but I would be happy to pay for it for the sake of my baby’s health. This would have (and has) involved giving my donor a pump (and a lot of recipients are willing to do this, too; you just have to ask and negotiate individually — it all depends on the specifics of each situation).

    There is no such negotiation with a corporation. If you decide you changed your mind and didn’t want to be signing away your rights to Prolacta, too bad if you’ve already signed. They can do what they want with your milk, and legally speaking, you can do NOTHING about it. So have fun with that. I don’t see what your doctor has to do with any of this, so I’m not sure why you mentioned him/her. Your doctor probably doesn’t know as much as s/he should about Prolacta, so it’s kind of silly to even mention his/her opinion about Prolacta here.

    You say: “I really don’t want to meet a family…I just want to help a baby.” O.K., I think you’re totally missing the point of MilkShare. MilkShare gives you as a donor all the flexibility you could ever want. If you don’t want to meet a family, that’s fine, too. You wouldn’t ever have to pay for shipping costs. You wouldn’t have to meet anyone in person if you didn’t want to, but as a side benefit, if you DID want to, you could actually meet the baby who would be drinking your milk. I think that’s pretty cool, personally, but in any case, I don’t see what the problem is. There is none.

    Please answer my question about which non-profit milk bank told you it wouldn’t cover shipping. I’d like to call them myself and confirm what you’re saying. Whatever it is, you can bet I’ll blog about it. I already talked to the HMBANA Austin Milk Bank and the HMBANA Denver Milk Bank, and what they told me is NOT what you are saying here. Please be specific about which bank told you this so that I can call and confirm. I will not have you spreading misinformation like this without being more specific. When I called and asked about the very question you are claiming, I was told very different information, which leads me to believe that either (a) not all HMBANA banks have the same shipping policies or (b) you misunderstood what the HMBANA bank you called told you. In any case, I’d like to know which bank you called. If you don’t answer, I’ll just assume you’re lying.

  13. Concerned Mom Says:

    Look on their websites. That was where I got the information. If that isn’t the case than their websites are misleading. Most of the HMBANA banks don’t except out of state donation because of the cost of shipping. I checked the one closest to me and they don’t except out of state donations either. Check out Indiania’s bank website. If I had a milk bank where I lived at I would donate there.

    I did not realize that some moms at milkshare pay for donor screenings. I just went by what their website says. I still don’t won’t to know a family, but that is just me.
    I did ask my doctor about Prolacta and he had nothing bad to say about them.

  14. MamaBear Says:

    Concerned Mom,

    I just called the HMBANA Ohio and Indiana milk banks. They both confirmed for me that they pay for shipping for Kentucky (which is where your IP address is) and other out-of-state donations, and furthermore also cover the cost of blood screening for ALL their donors. I don’t know who you got your information from, or what you’re trying to accomplish by saying the things you’re saying. If it’s true you’re a donor mom, it’s wonderful that you’re giving the gift of milk, but I think you’ve been sorely misinformed on the facts, and I really hope you don’t continue to spread this misinformation to others. I certainly won’t.

    Also: Most doctors don’t know about Prolacta, period, so it’s disingenuous to say that your doctor had nothing bad to say about them. He probably had nothing GOOD to say about them either. Most doctors have nothing AT ALL to say about Prolacta because they don’t even know what Prolacta IS. Why even bring up your doctor at all? (I’ve talked to several reputable medical doctors, and all of them had NO CLUE as to what Prolacta was before I talked to them about it.)

  15. Lesley Says:

    *shakes head*

    Concerned Mama, Mamabear has effectively poked holes in all of your logic, why are you still aggressively attacking this?

    I just don’t feel that you are genuine…

    And if your dr did actually know about Prolacta, seeing as most drs have ties with formula companies anyway, his opinion really does not matter a whole lot in this situation.

    Let’s put it another way: Let’s say that there is a charity looking for donations of new-in-package toys, to give to children from very low income situations over the holidays. You, a donor, purchase a toy to give to them. Then you find out that 75% of the toys donated actually went on ebay to be auctioned off, and the funds went to the company sponsering the charity, not to benefit the charity or the kids they are supposed to be helping. You toy had only a 25% chance of actually getting to a child. And you only found this out because someone uncovered the information, not because the charity had a statement along with the toy drive stating as much. You going to want to donate to them again? Or are you going to be seriously annoyed that you were taken advantage of?

    Personally, I would still prefer to cover shipping costs and screening costs if it meant ALL of my breastmilk went to those in need, rather than have those things covered and most or all of my milk going to line Prolacta’s pockets.

  16. Lesley Says:

    And for the record, I don’t necessarily have an issue with Prolacta selling the donated breastmilk (although I strongly disagree with how much they are charging)…my issue is that they hid that information from their donors, and that is disgusting.

  17. MamaBear Says:

    Lesley,

    You said, “I just don’t feel that you [Concerned Mom] are genuine…”

    I was thinking the same thing. The way Concerned Mom can find nothing wrong with Prolacta and everything wrong with Prolacta’s competition… Makes me wonder…

  18. Me! Says:

    Truthfully, I am not for what the IBMP is doing, but this seems to be a common model for a lot of not for profits at this point to hire a for profit to do some of the leg work for them.

    For example, I often receive phone calls from the police department soliciting donations. When you ask the man on the phone if he works for the police department, he usually does not. Most of the time, not for profits hire companies to solicit for them. Cold calling takes a lot of time and effort. The company takes a cut of the donation that you give. It is usually larger than you would expect. Hell, I thought I was donating all that money to the police department!

    The IBMP seems to be in a similar state as the police department. I assume that the cost of raising funds, collecting donations, providing testing, research, shipping, and pumps, etc. is expensive. I can understand why IBMP would not want to have to deal with the costs of some of those things and that jumping in with a for profit company could make it easier and quicker to provide services to Africa and other countries (which is an altruistic thing and the ultimate goal of the not for profit).

    The one thing that is bothersome about the whole issue is that neither group has been really transparent about how much profit Prolacta is making on the deal (as Lesley has mentioned).

    As to the whole thing with Concerned Mom…If she is truthful about donating, then at least she is putting effort into giving back. She might not be donating to a great charity, but at least she is trying to do something for someone else. I know tons of people who rail on about how things are, but do not give back to the community at all.

  19. MamaBear Says:

    Hello, “Me!”

    I’m glad you brought up that point about non profits and how they solicit donations over the phone… Did you know that most of the non-profits that solicit donations that way are usually scams too? Some entities register as non-profits and then use this as a “license to telemarket.” All they have to do is convince a few poor suckers to donate money to this organization, an organization that sounds legitimate but is actually a scam, and they make money. I’m glad you compared the IBMP to that, because it’s a very apt comparison.

    You mention that neither group has been really transparent about how much profit Prolacta is making on the deal… The IBMP hasn’t been transparent about how much money it has made in the past year either! And the IBMP is supposed to be a NON-profit entity. What are they doing with all their earnings from selling all this milk? They don’t have to pay for shipping; they don’t have to pay for milk processing — all of that is taken care of by Prolacta and Quick Courier… So what are they waiting for? Why don’t they just send the money to Africa like they said they would? Why are they deciding to pay “installments” of unknown quantities? Why not a lump sum? Who is holding on to the earnings, and WHY? What are their operational expenses, and what are they claiming they are being paid for? I thought the IBMP was composed of volunteers who collected the milk and put it into freezers out of the goodness of their hearts, for the kids in Africa, not for money for themselves… I didn’t realize there were any paid employees in the IBMP business model… Until very recently, and even now I still don’t know who’s getting a paycheck, or for how much, or what this person’s job is that requires payment…

    If Concerned Mom is truthful about donating, then I think it’s great she is giving the gift of milk, and if she is aware of and agrees with what will happen to her milk once she sends it to Prolacta, I can’t complain. I DO have a problem with her going on and on and on about how horrible HMBANA banks and MilkShare are, though, especially when what’s she’s spouting is a bunch of misinformation while conveniently ignoring all the unethical practices of the for-profit human milk banking business model.

    You said, “I know tons of people who rail on about how things are, but do not give back to the community at all.” You know, that sounds unfortunate… However, I’ve learned a lot from people like that, especially when they speak the truth. And sharing the truth is a gift in itself. I consider that “giving back.” FWIW, I not only speak the truth here on my blog, I also “give back” in whatever way I can, financially, to organizations that are truly non-profit (I research my recipients very carefully, and I would never donate money to the IBMP — they don’t need it, and, based on what I’ve observed so far, I can’t trust that it would make its way to Africa anyway!).

  20. Me! Says:

    Yes, those call donations are a scam, but they are not illegal. IF you are informed and read a lot, you know better than to give money to the guy on the phone, but sometimes it is easier to give your credit card number to that guy than write a check and send it to the police department.

    Cash from donations is both supposed to go to both the cause that the NPO is dedicated to, but also often goes to maintaining the NPO itself. They have to organize, pay people to work for them (not all NPOs use volunteers or can get them for everything), rent space for their organization, solicit donations, write grants, fill out legal and tax forms and market themselves. Not all of these services are donated to them, some must be paid for.

    For profits and not for profits are not so different, except NPO’s have s different tax designation and do not sell stocks or dividends. The one main difference is that an NPO’s board or president is not supposed to “enrich” itself.

    Now, having to spend some donation money in order to maintain an organization and pay for employees is not a bad thing. This is pretty common. A museum is a NPO, for example, but has to pay for grant writers, people to guard the art, etc. If Jill Youse is making herself rich off of this venture, then that would be illegal. Prolacta is definitely making a profit, but not necessarily IBMP. I think that the IMBP is making a lot of bad trade offs to get things done quickly, which are probably costing them and African orphans a lot of money.

    And I was not questioning whether or not you, personally, give back. I can see that you donate your shop sales to charities. And I know that you research the charities that you choose and choose things that are close to your heart. A truly informed person who wanted to give back would do some research themselves and pick things that they believe in to donate their money to, but it is easy and feels good to buy a shirt and know that the profit goes to a good cause. Again, this donation is more about ease and feeling good at the end of it. The main difference is that you are not taking a cut of the profit for running costs. I do not think that if you needed to take a few cents off of each shirt to pay for hosting costs on your blog, that people would be exceptionally angry.

    You are trying to give people information about things, which is a powerful thing. I would not go calling it truth, since truth tends to be based on opinion rather than solid facts, that whole truthiness thing. Stick to calling what you give facts and information.

    I am just stating the obvious, that everyone should give themselves (and others) a pat on the back when they DO something, This encourages a lot more giving back to the community. And maybe, Concerned Mom will make a more informed choice next time. I think that she chose more for ease, rather than out of any sort of malice.

  21. MamaBear Says:

    Thanks for being explicit about the non-profit situation. Yes, obviously non-profits have expenses. And this is precisely why I thought the “100%” claims made by the IBMP for months were so bizarre. This implied that they had no overhead costs, since 100% of the money was going straight to Africa, supposedly (it still hasn’t; NONE of the money made by the International Breast Milk Project from selling milk to Prolacta after May 31, 2007 has). And it’s not surprising, since Prolacta and Quick Courier take care of all the overhead I could account for. If Jill wants to give herself a reasonable salary of up to $50,000/year to make it worth her while, I wouldn’t think anything of it. If she wants to do the same for her brother, fine. I assume they both work hard, so I feel they should be reasonably compensated for their hard work (but in SEVERAL news articles, Jill has implied that she works as a full-time volunteer for the IBMP, which implies NO payment; this is yet another problematic claim which I’m not sure why they would go out of their way to make). One of the major problems I have with the IBMP is that they make FAR MORE than just $100,000/year on the milk sales (money which has yet to makes its way to Africa — even though the whole point of making that money is supposedly is FOR AFRICA), and that I have reason to believe milk was being sold to Prolacta before May 31, 2007 (which implies even more money being made that has not been accounted for, and at the very least means the IBMP didn’t disclose this fact openly). As for the money the IBMP claims to have made after May 31, 2007 off milk sales to Prolacta, NONE of that money has been sent to Africa yet, by the IBMP’s own admission (as recently as October 18, their update said, “We WILL BE sending ‘installments’…”)! There are NO obvious expenses associated with the IBMP, as least none that they have claimed (other than a very recently disclosed, very vague, and as-yet unspecified “operational expenses” percentage — the IBMP claimed strangely that before August, no “operational expenses” were incurred — odd, why none before August 2007 and now they need it?). Since Prolacta takes care of the actual costs of milk processing (including freezers and, I’m assuming, the costs to run them; also any shipping and pumps distributed; the shipping to Africa is covered for FREE by Quick Courier), then what is the deal? Where is all this money being kept in the interim? Why? What are these “operational expenses” covering that wasn’t necessary before August 2007? What are the “operational expenses” of the IBMP if all the logistics of milk processing, storage, and shipping are being covered by other parties, for free? Presumably the IBMP has been raking in lots of milk donations for a while now, so who was in charge of keeping track of that (I thought Prolacta was, since the donations are shipped there)? And isn’t the IBMP run mostly by Jill, her brother, and volunteers (according to IBMP’s own website, up until October 2007)? Who is getting paid by the IBMP, and why? What sort of “consulting” is being done here? It seems a little self-serving after a while… I thought the whole point of the IBMP was to get breastmilk and/or money to African orphans , not to pay off vague, undisclosed “consulting” fees to people here in the U.S. (Actually, that’s yet ANOTHER problem with the IBMP: their mission statement has changed so many times I can’t even keep track anymore of what their whole point of existing is!)

    The IBMP worked beautifully before the partnership with Prolacta… The milk shipments to Africa certainly were more frequent, ironically! The only difference now is that there’s LOTS of money to be made… And money changes everything.

    The lack of transparency and the egregious amount of TIME spent being vague about what’s happening to the milk and the money — and the fact that in their most popular news reports about the IBMP (ABC News, TIME, Oprah, etc.) NO mention is made of this 75/25 split with Prolacta… Man, that just adds up to a whole heap of UN-transparent “non-profit” mess.

    Oh, and about “Concerned Mom.” I think if Concerned Mom is really a person who wanted to donate to Prolacta out of convenience, that’s fine (as long as she is fully aware of what she’s getting into). What I don’t understand is why she continued to talk smack about HMBANA banks and MilkShare even in the face of all kinds of evidence to refute her misinformed claims (she continued to write me, even more than what you see here in the comments section, with more denigration and more illogic — implying that by revealing the truth I’m disenfranchising all donors — as if! I’m not the one taking their milk and lying to them about what will really happen to it! …And her writing style is very … familiar). The ONLY people I’ve ever encountered who do that are people who benefit from Prolacta in some capacity, which is why I said what I said. I do not believe “Concerned Mom” is a free agent without bias. Based on everything she wrote, I believe she is someone whose motivations to say what she did are compromised by an association with Prolacta.

    Also, you are right that it’s better to do something than nothing. My point with my original post is that yes, the IBMP does do SOMETHING… It’s just that I’m not sure that ALL the somethings it does are a net benefit to everyone involved. I still don’t know. If someone believes a lie, even though the lie “feels good,” isn’t it still a lie?

  22. Betty Says:

    May I just speak up as “Betty” who was quoted by MamaBear on the Milk Bank issue a while back? I understand the altruism in donating breastmilk. I understand that breastmilk is liquid gold and that Mamas who want to breastfeed but can’t would pay premium for the best thing for their babies.

    Because IBMP is associated with Prolacta, I STRONGLY caution ANYONE to make sure that you are INFORMED. That’s ALL that MamaBear wants to make sure people know. I BLINDLY donated over FOUR coolers (that’s OVER 1000 ounces, folks) to NMB and I was TOLD that this milk would be processed by Prolacta and then distributed DIRECTLY to NICUs for preemies at NO COST to the Mamas.

    Because of the information MamaBear has so PAINSTAKINGLY provided, I found out that my milk was being processed into HMF at a PROFIT. I don’t get it. Plasma donors are paid, so it stands to reason that plasma recipients pay a premium for plasma. Blood donors are NOT paid, so it stands to reason that the costs of processing blood is the only cost passed down to the recipient. If I had KNOWN that such a profit was being made, (and I have the email from NMB to prove that they ARE making a profit) I would not have donated to them.

    As for MilkShare…I have donated a total of EIGHT coolers-full to ONE Mama/Baby. We didn’t ship at all; rather, we took 3 coolers on vacation and her hubby went 2 1/2 hours ONE WAY to pick up the milk. (Way to go, supportive daddy!) The second time, we sent 5 coolers with my in-laws when they went to visit family, and the daddy went 2 1/2 hours AGAIN ONE WAY to get the milk.

    For the record, they only needed copies of my pregnancy labs (which is all most recipients request from what I’ve seen on MilkShare) so they can document that I was HIV and other yucky-free. This also would protect them in case Child Services got involved. They were TOTALLY willing to pay for coolers, packaging, shipping, milk bags, etc. They sent me 2 things of milk bags. The coolers were provided by Prolacta as I refused to be used by them anymore. I am actually giggling as I write this.

    Please do not attack MamaBear. This Jr.Bear credits her for saving my milk! I was so distressed by being used that I almost lost my milk supply completely and MamaBear talked me through this. This is something she didn’t have to do, but did on her own time without any gain. Because of her support, I was able to continuing donating my milk without losing any of it to prolonged storage.

  23. MamaBear Says:

    Oh “Betty,” :)

    Your account of your experience warms my heart. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to share it with everyone who may read it. Thank you so much. :)

    I’m really, really glad you were able to continue donating and that you now know at least one family who has benefited greatly from your generosity and love. Thank goodness for MilkShare… It cuts through all the B.S. and allows kind donor moms to get in touch with real families.

    If anyone is interested in reading more about “Betty’s” experience, here’s the post she referred to: http://www.breastfeedingsymbol.org/2007/07/29/reader-mail/

  24. lauredhel Says:

    I BLINDLY donated over FOUR coolers (that’s OVER 1000 ounces, folks) to NMB and I was TOLD that this milk would be processed by Prolacta and then distributed DIRECTLY to NICUs for preemies at NO COST to the Mamas.

    Just another example of how Prolacta lie to people while their PR people pretend that they don’t. All the above statements are technically correct, or almost so, but strung together in a story they leave out the MOST important fact, the fact that hospitals or insurance companies are paying a fortune for the milk. These costs are, obviously, then passed on to patients, but because the mother doesn’t see a direct bill from Prolacta, they pretend that there was “no cost”.

    This combined with their “.org” website names and the fact that at least one of their websites (NMB) openly lied saying it was “non-profit” at one stage, and it all adds up to you having experienced deceptive and misleading conduct.

    Betty have you talked to any authorities in your area? Business or charity watchdogs? Law enforcement? (Sorry, I’m not in the USA and so not clear on exactly who handles complaints about businesses lying and pretending to be charities in order to solicit donations).

  25. MamaBear Says:

    Lauredhel,

    Here in the USA, the best place to report fraud like this is the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC: http://www.ftc.gov/. They have an online form you can fill out: https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01. The complaint form is general, so there are some things on it that wouldn’t apply to milk donation situations, but it’s still worth reporting if you feel you have been wronged.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Lauredhel, and for seeing through the facade.

  26. Betty Says:

    Really? I thought I could go after them for at least misrepresentation. I mean, they’re making a FORTUNE off of my DONATION! Just THINK how much, even after processing, they have made!

    I don’t know if it’d be worth the time or trouble if I was doing this on my own. If I started a class-action or joined one, maybe I could hack it.

    And yes, I was told they were not for profit and then they change their story that they have to have some sort of benefit from it. Tried to make me feel that I was being irrational. I’m sorry, but the milk I obtained and sent could have helped FOR FREE 1 baby for at least a couple of months through MilkShare. And this milk was from blood sweat and tears, especially during my daughter’s NICU stay. I’m still hacked, but I’m more hacked at the betrayal.

  27. MamaBear Says:

    Oh Betty,

    (((HUG)))

    When I think of that, of the NICU time your baby spent, of the pumping and the stress of all of that, and of your sacrifice, it just breaks my heart. Especially when I think of all the other women out there that are going through (or have gone through) similar situations as yours, given so much of themselves, only to be taken advantage of… It is really, really upsetting to me, and it’s one of my biggest motivators in continuing to write.

    I really hope you are able to get resolution for this. I am amazed by your bravery in sharing your story here, for all the world to see.

  28. News Round-Up, 11/3/07 « Women’s Health News Says:

    […] International Breastfeeding Symbol Blog has a good discussion of a philosophical question - is a little good good […]

  29. Betty Says:

    Heck…I’m just sorry I wasted all the milk on NMB. I could have kept babies going for a LOOONG time on what I donated. I guess in a way, I did still, but I just hate the thought. And I’m probably NOT ever going to go against them legally by myself. I just don’t want anyone to be led blindly by the cutesy-pootseyness of the operation.

    It gets so bad sometimes that I want to redecorate my “milk bank pump”. I almost want to puke sometimes when I use it. But what else can I do? I’m committed to pumping for my baby, and extras continue to go to MilkShare or whomever could use it.

    Thanks for your encouragement and your help! I’ll never be able to express how much you did help. I am serious in that I was getting physically ILL about the whole situation until you stepped in. Thanks!

    Oh, and regarding this post….to me, there is no philosophical debate. Right is right, wrong is wrong. You lie to me, (as did NMB) I get very upset. I’m a very generous person by nature and probably would have helped anyhow, so they just didn’t have to screw me by lying. I hate that!

  30. MamaBear Says:

    Betty,

    You are so right about the way the National Milk Bank and Prolacta milk collectors in general treat their breastmilk donors. It’s very condescending and dishonest. The “‘cutesy-pootsey” description is very apt. *Barf*

    You are very welcome, btw, and I am just glad you know now and can tell other people who may consider donating their milk about all their options (and all the consequences associated with each option). If I were able to donate milk, I would totally go with MilkShare. It’s just about the most pure way to donate breastmilk there is — no middleman, no lying. Just honest, DIRECT donations made in good faith. The MilkShare system honors the intelligence of both the donors and the recipients. It doesn’t assume either one of them are idiots (like Prolacta seems to). It allows people to sort out the arrangements for themselves, and that’s really cool. I’m really glad the MilkShare alternative exists, ’cause if it didn’t, I’d have my work cut out for me in trying to create it from scratch.

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