Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who owns breastfeeding? Or, why I'm troubled by the Big Latch On this year

This is just a quick post based on news today that I find disturbing.

The interwebz are buzzing with the news that Mother's Milk Cooperative, the sister company of Prolacta founder Elena Medo's new venture, Medolac, will be sponsoring the Big Latch On this year. (See Significant corporate developments in the US human milk marketplace, October, 2013)

Earlier this spring I wrote a lengthy post to Lactnet, which is available in their public archives, where I observed that Medolac's entry into the human milk marketplace is really shaking things up:
"... There seems to be a growing divide between commercial and not-for-profit interests. On the commercial side we're seeing a battle of "titans" as Medo seeks to redeem herself after having lost control of Prolacta. She's been exceptionally clever in identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and answering/exploiting with her new corporate model. ... "

I love the Big Latch On. I have participated in a similar event, the Breastfeeding Challenge, founded in Canada in 2001 by the Quintessence Foundation, for many years. Like the Breastfeeding Challenge, the Big Latch On is a grassroots effort with a simple goal - to encourage women to gather in public to celebrate breastfeeding. I love and support grassroots breastfeeding initiatives that support breastfeeding and that support donor human milk. This blog stems from that love.
Simple, grassroots, driven by altruism.

The Mother's Milk Cooperative may have a crunchy grassroots sounding name, but take a closer look. Unlike milksharing initiatives, MMC did not rise up out of the grassroots. Rather, it was conceived to provide the supply side for Medolac. Sure, it will be paying a dollar an ounce to mothers, but the profit margin on its products will be significant, and I am concerned its model has the potential to be exploitive of mothers who would otherwise donate excess milk but are forced by economic circumstances to instead sell it.

Medolac recently hired a former infant food manufacturing company executive as their regulatory affairs advisor. When for profit companies step up to promote, support, and protect breastfeeding, I become very concerned.

Because a for-profit company's first priority is, above all else... profit. And so I'm concerned that profit is being sought at the expense of mothers and babies and the Big latch On is being exploited by for-profit interests.

Update July 15, 2014: LLLUSA is running Live, Love, and Latch events as a latch-on alternative, and a number of independent latch-on events are also taking place. Click here for a list: Indy, LLL latch-on events sprouting up across Canada and the US

Update July 23, 2014: Quintessence Foundation has launched Express Support:
On August 1st we are holding an important event- a chance to express your support for breastfeeding women around the world as well as non-profit milk banks.Some groups are doing “latch on” events, others a coffee group. How can you support women in your community?