Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Question of Ethics

This is a Quiz, an Ethics Quiz. If ya pass, ya get to go to Breastfeeding Heaven. If ya fail...well ya go back to reality. Breastfeeding Heaven is the land of milkie and mommies, a Virtual Garden of Delight. I always loved college courses that were Pass/Fail. NOT. But in the Virtual, life is never evening shadows or morning mist. It's always Life in the BrightShiningSilvery Glow of never-neverland. So what's that got to do with the price of human milk, eh? I use to say what's that got to do with the price of bananas. But I'm on the Virtual, so we will walk the walk and talk the talk.
Okay, question one of our Ethics Quiz. What will you do to get to a Breastfeeding Society? a) anything short of murder, b) anything including murder, c) lie, steal, or cheat-the political norm, d) nothing, e) anything as long as I get paid. Now, what is the right answer? And do we have all the options? Question two. Is it ethical to "fib" (small little lies) when asking for donations? a) sometimes, b) always, c) never, d) only if you are doing it for the good of the people. Question three. Is it ethical to pay breastmilk donors? a) always, b) sometimes, c) never.
So lets give examples, so we can reflect on our answers. Let's see. An example of the second question was the PR campaign to get mothers to donate their breastmilk because of the Haiti earthquake. We had an "urgent" request for breastmilk donations, one press release said, "Infant victims of Haiti's earthquake need breast milk." Truth or fiction? Well, sort of true from the perspective of the milk banking promoters. They believed that Haitian babies needed bottled breastmilk, particularly babies without mothers. Yet, was that the real reason for the request for donations? No, in later statements called "Talking Points" set out by the US Breastfeeding Committee, HMBANA, and ILCA it was stated: "The initial appeal for donor milk was made earlier this week to help replenish supplies of milk at the regional milk banks around the country, which were already low following the holidays." The appeal actually would only benefit American babies because these organizations recognized that there was no infrastructure in Haiti. So its OK to tell a minor fib (urgent need for donor milk for Haitian babies) in order to do a good thing (build up donor milk supplies in USA to benefit US babies)? Well, I guess its OK cause no one is questioning the ethical implications of such PR tactics. An example of the third question is easy. I just read an article written in 2009 in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore called, "Baby Food: If Breast is best why are women bottling their milk?" She states in her article, "Can a human milk bank pay a woman for her milk. No, because doing so would violate the ethical standards of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America [HMBANA]."
Of course, that is their ethics and not necessarily everyone else's ethics. Unless one believes that their is only one answer to ethical questions. Yet, interestingly enough, Prolacta, a for-profit milk bank pays hospitals for donor milk. Yet they follow the ethics of HMBANA and refuse to pay individuals for donor milk. So ethics in Prolacta's case depend on whether you are a hospital or the individual donor.
Yes I haven't touched on an example of the first question, "What would you do to get to a Breastfeeding Society?" I leave you to the Virtual to find your answer.........
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, January 29, 2010

the "business" of breastfeeding, a "virtual" burn-out

See the baby pineapple in the picture, my public relations company is having a "virtual" harvesting of pineapples on We will be eating and digesting them in virtual time. Smell them! Taste them? Yummy, yummy. Enjoy...enjoy...isn't life grand in the Virtual. Ya can sit on your chair for hours and hours and pretend ya have food, as your fingers melt into the keyboard and your saliva drips down your chin. Oh brave new world, how great thou art...we don't have to be human, we can merge with our "puter" and live off the wire. Wanna breastfeed? Do we have the program for you!!
Oh yes back to business, the business of breastfeeding. Let's see we had 3 PR campaign messages that went Virtual in the past two weeks, all revolving around donating breastmilk to Haiti. The third amended PR message supposedly got it just right...kinda like the fairy tail of Goldilocks. Hey, if you have a PR company you can call a spade a spoon or spoon a spade. Afterall, this is the Virtual. So how many people bought the third amended version of the need to donate human milk to Haiti? According to the Virtual, most everyone did and now onto better and bigger stories to sell humanmilkfeeding to the public.
In the third amended PR campaign version there is an interesting statement, "...International Milk Bank Project and Quick International Courier coordinated a shipment of milk from the HMBANA member banks to supplement a mother's own milk..." Yes, in the general chaos of 3 versions of PR statements, we seem to have lost focus. Let me see, everyone is OK with the International Milk Bank Project (IMBP) and HMBANA working together on this Haiti Project?? Oh yes for this project, the IMBP and Prolacta are not partnered. Yet, on the Prolacta website, when I went on there to find my closest milkbank to donate to (yes in the Virtual World I am still lactating); I found that my closest Prolacta milkbank is in Miami or the Virtual Milkbank of the IMBP. So Prolacta still believes that they are partnered with the IMBP but the IMBP has somehow forgotten they are partnered. Prolacta is also partnered in a project with Abbott (infant formula and pharmaceutical company). On the Virtual, what do you believe??
I found a gem in the Ethiopian Review...addressed to "lactating" women, asking them to open their shirts and donate. The article discusses that donations will go to the US Navy ship, "Comfort." A Gina Ciagne, CLC, director of breastfeeding and consumer relations at Lansinoh Labs says its important for women willing to pump and donate to identify themselves to the nearest chapter of HMBANA. Women must be willing to donate at least 100 ounces of milk (that will take this old lady awhile). Women's blood will be tested, etc... so what happens when ya donate a 100 ounces (I use to be able to hand express 2 ounces a day while also breastfeeding--2 divided into 100--it will take me 50 days to donate) and your milk is unacceptable. They throw it out, right? Yeah right. Maybe they give it back to ya? Yeah right. Dream on girls this is the Virtual and this is the business of breastfeeding. By the way Lansinoh donated $10,000 cash to UNICEF. The business of breastfeeding is doing well. Lansinoh is endorsed by La Leche League International (something I protested about back in the old days when I was a LLL leader--it was unthinkable to me that a non-profit would endorse any company). The business of breastfeeding: I do get it now that I am living in the Virtual. Gina Ciagne of Lansinoh was a former public affairs specialist in the women's health office (US Department of Health).
See ya on the Virtual..........................
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Auguries of Innocence" by William Blake

In the movie, "Tomb Raider," Lara Croft reads the beginning stanzas of a poem written by William Blake from "Auguries of Innocence."
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Tomb Raider was about a treasure hunter. The treasure hunter was a woman (played by Angelina Jolie). It's the only action/adventure movie I have ever liked. So why am I writing about a movie that is about 10 years old? The movie was a blockbuster hit back then and it brought Angelina Jolie fame and fortune. Yet I see this movie in the light of my own interests. The movie centers around finding the key to stopping and even reversing time. Having that ability would give a person or an organization great power.
Breastfeeding has always struck me as a very powerful treasure. The world shifted when I breastfed my babies, time stopped. Love happened. Those moments are the treasure. I looked into their eyes as they looked into my eyes and our souls did meet. I loved them beyond measure. I saw their beauty as human beings. We live in a world that doesn't want women to have that ancient treasure. It is threatening to a male-dominated, war-like society to have strong bonds between mothers and their babies. Women are suppose to feel strongly attached to their men not their babies...right? When women distance themselves from their babies, they become more available to their men. Yet, in distancing themselves from their babies, the treasure is lost.
Now men of science believe that they have found the treasure that is within the mammary gland. They think the magic can be separated and purified from the act itself. Men and women in our society often believe that women don't really want or need to breastfeed their babies. Our world is about the magic made between men and women. There is no room in our society for love between women and their babies. Liberation of women is about liberating women from their babies. It's about getting our babies into daycare, feeding them bottles of milk made by men of science. We must free women from their babies. If women liberated themselves rather than men doing the liberating, what a different world this would be.
Now the men of science, require donations of human milk, to make a better infant formula. And we, women buy into that need. We donate that precious milk because we are told a variety of stories by the corporate world. Donate because orphaned babies in Africa need your milk. Donate because their is an earthquake in Haiti. Donate because babies in NICU's need your milk. We buy into the public relations campaigns because we are good people who want to help. Don't ask any questions about how much of that milk goes to that NICU baby in your hospital or how much will be going to Haiti? Don't ask these non-profits or your hospitals about their connections to Prolacta (a for profit milk bank that is partnered with Abbott, an infant formula company). How dare you question a non-profit or a hospital. Don't ask about all the patents regarding human milk that are owned by the infant formula industry! I have been writing about this for 10 years and I still get the wall of silence from the breastfeeding community. How does the infant formula industry get human milk? All the non-profits say not from me, not from me.
Well now we know for sure that one infant formula company, Abbott, will have a direct link to human milk through Prolacta. But what about all the other infant formula companies? Nestle owns quite a few patents on human milk components. And this article was recently sent to me regarding Danisco and Arla and their interest in human milk oligosaccarides (sugars) to be used in infant formulas.
How does donating human milk preserve breastfeeding? Tell me again....I don't understand.
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, January 22, 2010

Aftermath of Disasters: Infant mortality increases?

In Volusia County in 2005, we were hit by a series of hurricanes--back to back. By the third hurricane, we all knew the drill. Run out to the grocery store get supplies, gas up, board up (I never took my boards down off my windows that year--my family lived like moles at an indoor campground). Charlie hit us first and it came in through the backdoor. Coming across the state from west to east and exiting out of Volusia County. It was suppose to go to New Orleans. New Orleans dodged that one but was later hit with Katrina. Charlie was a surprise, no time to do the panic-shuffle of going to the stores packed with people trying to buy the last few batteries or canned goods. I had lived in Florida since 1978 and Charlie has been the only hurricane in which I got scared enough to make the family sleep in the hallway. Frankly I slept through all the other hurricanes but Charlie had remarkable winds. When dawn hit I went outside, as did all my neighbors. There was silence--no humming of air conditions, no cars tearing down the street, just silence. Roads were impassable, trees down everywhere, trees in houses, roofs half off. I felt amazement and thankfullness, no trees in my house although they did go down around my house and took my fence at the same time. I got in my car and drove around town because I thought I would be able to find a gas station open or a store open. Never dawned on me that it took electricity to run the pumps at a gas station. And gee no traffic lights worked--so what do you do at a major intersection in town? Hm gun it? Russian roulette with your car--eventually I learned that you treat it like a 4-way stop. But most of us, didn't know that, so intersections were fun. Fun as in dangerous and not so funny. I learned later that day when I finally found my D sized batteries to run my radio that the local government wanted everyone to stay home and not drive around. Yeah I knew why, without power driving is a hazard. But when all power is off, you don't know what is going on. I lived 40 minutes away from my parents. I couldn't call them to see if they were all right and I couldn't drive that far with the amount of gas I had in my car. As time went on, an edge of panic sets in, when you realize that the whole county was without power. A day after Charlie hit, a few grocery stores opened. You couldn't buy anything frozen or refrigerated--still no power, just canned goods and canned goods that obviously were everyone's last choice of food to eat, no bread, no crackers--people had already grabbed those. No ice...yikes. The silence was now punctuated with the loud buzz of chain saws. Then the loud deafening sound of the lucky neighbors who had generators and power. did they have the gas for those generators? I kept saying to myself this is good--my electric bill will be low this month. Of course, my job at a local bed and breakfast was curtailed, no tourists wanting to come to a town without electricity. We did do alot of yard work, in very steamy conditions. But one room had air conditioning because of a generator. The air conditioning was nice but the shock of going back and forth from air to hot and humid was difficult. I began to prefer to stay outside despite the heat. I was without power for nine days. I found out my parents were fine and they had power within 3 days time. Some neighbors got their power before me, some after. Blue tarps were up on the roofs of so many homes. I was so thankful my roof held and nothing fell into it. Some shopping centers were demolished. Beachside was another story--flooding and huge air conditioners that use to reside on top of some condos, smashed to the ground in parking lots. Clean up would go on for some time. We would all feel the burden of waiting for insurance to cover the damages. What I observed at that time was who got help first and it seemed to me that the wealthy neighborhoods must have had a special line to their insurance companies. I was still seeing blue tarps on roofs in poorer neighborhoods a year and half after the hurricanes. Gradually roads, services came back. But then we got slammed again and again with minor hurricanes that year. So we ended up with more blue tarped roofs and more damage. In a hot climate when roofs fail or leak, and electricy is off, the mold and mildew situation becomes pretty darn bad. We survived these storms. We were not hit like New Orleans, so we cannot complain. Economically we took a huge hit. And then last year the national economy burst its bubble with the banking and stock market crisis.
We are now witnessing sky-rocketing black infant mortality rates-- our white infant mortality rate is high too. Is this the result of being in a disaster that creates enormous economic stress on families, particularly poor families? How does living through a disaster effect living conditions? My roof started leaking after hurricane number 3 of that year. It was patched up but how much mold and mildew has families in this area breathed in since the hurricanes? We assume that once the initial clean-up is done, the area no longer needs assistance. Yet this is not true. On the surface, this county looks like it is back to normal. Yet infant mortality is increasing. Infant mortality is an indicator, an indicator of the health of a nation, the health of the community. In the aftermath of Katrina, did infant mortality increase? I have read various articles which suggest this has happened. In the aftermath of the Haiti's earthquakes, will we see the same pattern of increasing infant mortality? It seems highly likely. I think there is little understanding of the huge impact of a disaster to a community. Our community is not New Orleans or Haiti. But we are still struggling. My thoughts and prayers for all who are struggling in the midst of disasters/wars and for all who must keep struggling in the aftermath...
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thinking of Haiti: raising donations of human milk

Haiti is in the hearts and minds of many people around the world. We want to help. We see the wounded on our screens, the haunting pictures of the babies and children. We see a city in ruins and we cry for them. We want to do something to help. But what do we do? We donate to worthy organizations who have experience in working in disasters. If we are breastfeeding advocates, we look for organizations that will work to preserve breastfeeding. Disasters often become the dumping grounds for infant formula and for food commodities that are inappropriate for the community (for example dairy foods in African nations where the people are lactose intolerant). Think of the difficulties of infant formula if you have no electricity, no running water, no fuel, no medical backup (because infants on formula have higher morbidity and mortality rates than breastfed infants).
It was with great interest that I have been reading on the web that human milk banks (HMBANA-Human Milk Banking Association of North America and the IBMP-Internationl Breast Milk Project, who is partnered with Prolacta) are asking breastfeeding moms to donate their milk for Haiti. Or should I say that the headlines say donations are for Haiti. But after reading what the IBMP says at their website, the reader realizes that the donations won't be going to Haiti right away because there is no infrastructure to handle the donations (frozen milk is a little difficult in places where there is no electricity). Hm......I am getting the impression that basically this is a PR presentation and not very carefully thought out. A call for donations based on a disaster when there is no immediate plan or plans to take those donations to Hait seems to me to be unethical. I can't think of a kinder way to put it. Even if the intention is based on doing good, it has no basis in immediate reality. And this PR stunt gets even murkier when it is one organization, the IBMP, saying that another non-profit, HMBANA is actually going to do this but of course the IBMP wants donations, too. And the shadows get even deeper, when you read the IBMP website under history and find that the IBMP is partnered with Prolacta (who is now partnered with Abbott). Although, the IBMP in regard to collecting for Haiti states they are not involved with Prolacta. Not sure what that means--no longer, at all, involved with Prolacta? Yet, the IBMP has on their advisory board a David Rechtmann, who is the Chief Medical Officer of Prolacta. What is really going on? It's so convoluted and strange that one tends to think that something is incredibly wrong. Or is this just a case of people not thinking it through, not understanding how this appears to the outside world?
The priority in all disasters, particularly Haiti, should be to support and protect breastfeeding. Human milk feeding could be the next choice once the infrastructure is in place(in Haiti--the infrastructure has always been questionable). But like infant formula, it too should be carefully distributed in order that it not displace breastfeeding.
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Volusia County's climbing infant mortality rate

Volusia County is known for its beaches--you can drive on them. Although the downside to this is that often sunbathers get run over and cars are polluting. The local "sons of beaches" believe that cars on beaches are an essential freedom, like voting. We are also known for our racetrack in Daytona Beach, the home of speed. We are a tourist destination because of our beaches, warm weather (although after yesterday's snow flurries, warmth is somewhere south of here). We have Bike Week and Biktoberfest in which thousands of bikes and their owners come to pay us a visit. Our community banks on these activities because it means economic survival. These huge events help the community weather the slow daze of few tourists and fewer dollars. Residents know that this county has the lowest wages in the State-ranking at the bottom. Many residents communte to other counties for higher paying wages--like the Cape (Caniveral) or Orlando. We joke about the local employment ads, practically non-existent. Jobs have vanished like an animal on the endangered species list. How does a community withstand the withering of its economy? Who takes the hit? I see more people living on the streets, "will work for food" signs. A few months ago I saw a well-dressed elderly man with his dog. His head hung low, he held a sign asking for food. Many people stopped which usually isn't the case. Community food banks are struggling to keep up with the increased need. Poverty is mostly hidden away in this county. So seeing it close, with more people on the streets, begging for food, jars the fantasy that all is well. One of the indicators that all is not well is higher infant mortality rates. So a few days ago I started looking at this county's infant mortality rates. I went to the website of Florida Vital Statistics. I looked at the total infant mortality (babies born alive whose deaths ocurred within 364 days of birth) which was described as "reflecting the health and well-being of the population's women of reproductive age and their infants as well as quality of the health care available." Florida's white infant mortality rate for the year 2008 was 5.5 and the black infant mortality rate was 12.9. In Volusia County the white infant mortality rate in the year 2008 was 7.3 and the black infant mortality rate was 24.3. In Miami-Dade the white infant mortality for 2008 was 3.9 and the black infant mortality rate was 8.8. For the same year in Orange County (part of Orlando) the white infant mortality rate was 5.4 with 17.8 for black infants. Volusia County's black infant mortality rate in 2006 was 6.4, in 2007 it was 12.0, and 2008 it was a whopping 24.3. When the economy takes a nosedive, whose health and well-being suffer? Why are other counties in the state doing better than Volusia County? Is it just the economic turndown that is impacting our County more than others? What's wrong here?
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain