In an effort to encourage to low-income Detroit, Mich., mothers to breastfeed, an Oregon company has teamed with the Clinton Global Initiative to buy their breast milk and resell it to hospitals at a 600 percent markup, according to the New York Times.
Says Kimberly Seals Allers in the Times:
What is a for-profit company with no African-American employees, no African-American board members, and no meaningful connections to African-American mothers doing starting a campaign targeting low-income African-American mothers in Detroit to sell their breast milk under the promise of economic empowerment? That’s a question that deserves an answer, particularly since the company promoting this “pull yourself up by your own nursing bra straps” approach intends to sell that milk at a profit.
Medolac, an Oregon-based company working in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative, says it will “seek to increase breast-feeding rates among urban African-American women” and promote “healthy behavior and prolonged breast-feeding within their communities” by starting a local campaign to grow members of the Mothers Milk Cooperative, the only milk bank owned and operated by nursing mothers.
Established last year, the Mothers Milk Cooperative, established with the participation of Medolac founder Elena Medos, pays approved members who have been screened and have completed blood testing $1 an ounce for their milk, the Times writes.
In turn, the cooperative has an exclusive producer/processor agreement with Medolac, which processes the milk into a commercially sterile, shelf-stable product and sells it to hospitals for about $7 an ounce — a 600 percent markup.
It has long been known that breast-feeding has long- and short-term health benefits for mothers and children, including antibodies that help babies fend off viruses and bacteria, among other things, health experts say.
Detroit has one of the lowest breast-feeding rates for black women in the nation: under 40 percent, compared with 70 percent for white, non-Hispanic mothers in the same city.
The plan, with its promise of increasing breast-feeding in the African-American community, sounds like good news. But, as the Times points out, “the economic and racial elements of the Medolac plan make it look more like a modern-day breast milk marketing scheme than a public benefit.”