Only 10% of infants in the US with a critical need for donor milk have access to it.
I joined my mother’s chosen path in helping women and infants several years ago when my husband and I were expecting our first baby. Since that time, our family has dedicated our careers and our time to providing solutions for improved access to human milk based nutrition. We are so proud of the difference we have made for families around the world, for example:
- Pooled donor milk lacked the nutrient density that preemies need for optimal brain and body development – so my mother developed the world’s first commercially-available concentrated human milk product.
- Scale has been lacking in milk banking – so we developed innovative programs that have increased the volume of banked human milk.
- Cost has been prohibitive, putting donor milk out of reach for MANY hospitals and families – so we designed more efficient processes reducing the cost of donor milk.
- Safety and Quality have been inconsistent in milk banking – so we developed the first commercially-sterile donor milk offering a higher level of confidence in donor milk never before achieved.
- With the launch of the Milk Money program through the Mother’s Milk Cooperative, we were able to extend the reach of the milk bank further by helping families with a source of income – providing a safe and reliable avenue for women to sell their excess breast milk.
These accomplishments could not have been achieved without the dedication of our entire family. You see, as under-served as this space is – it is also fiercely guarded by other milk banking entities. Entering the market disruptively with a more convenient, higher quality, and more affordable alternative to non-sterile donor milk has ruffled the feathers of other milk banks. Since our launch on Mother’s Day of 2013 we have faced unfounded, both laughable and vicious rumors and frivolous anti-competitive litigation from the other milk banks. I have had representatives from other milk banks confront me personally at professional conferences and attempt to antagonize me in my booth. In the media, other milk banks describe my milk donors as tawdry and unethical for wanting to sell their breast milk…(here is a great paper on this subject) and it goes on. You would think that with widespread shortages, solutions that get more milk to babies in need would be a good thing…This is not so when milk banking is all about business: and milk banking is BIG business.
Let no good deed go unpunished.
Because of the obstacles created by the other milk banks our dedicated team has become even more driven, redoubling our dedication to delivering desperately needed donor milk to babies in need. This is what we do, and no amount of anti-competitive behavior could tear us away from the families that need us. This is bigger than business to us, this is personal. The stories you share with me about that baby you know could have been saved if he could have had been fed exclusively human milk, and how you reflected on that as you turned off life support. I haven’t stopped thinking about that story, about that baby and about how that impacts doctors every day. It’s about the mother of that baby, who calls me to donate her breast milk in her baby’s honor shares her story with me and I feel my heart breaking for the unfathomable pain and bravery to do what she does. And I feel so honored to play a part in carrying on that baby’s legacy, and compelled to do all that I am able to prevent this kind of heartbreak.
This is about so much more than business.
This is why it boggles my mind to experience, and witness the damaging actions other milk banking groups attempt to keep us from succeeding in our mission to ensure every baby with a need, has access to donor milk.
The good news?
Regardless of these attempts to distract us, we are prevailing. We have maintained a laser-like focus on removing barriers to donor milk. We have reduced cost, and improved safety, quality and convenience and hospitals have embraced these changes. Babies are thriving on Co-op Donor Milk, and the data speaks for itself. You see, the fight I am fighting is not for market share – it’s fighting against the clock, and every second of the day there are babies that need milk, that aren’t getting it. It’s a race to continue to innovate to find ways to make donor milk more affordable, and better. The rest of it, the attempts to tear us down – it’s just noise – I get it. People strike out when they are afraid, but I wish that we could all remember how important it is to be fueled by passion and not contempt. Competition is GOOD!! It forces us all to examine ourselves, our achievements, and our contributions and it pushes us to improve. Some people seem to have forgotten that this space is about people, and our ability to wake up everyday and choose kindness, choose to help each other. There is so much work to be done in milk banking.
The takeaway? It’s up to you. There’s no marketing speech here. No forms to sign-up for more information. Just wanted to write from the heart about our work, and our trials and tribulations, and why we do what we do.
From my family to yours, thank you for your support and all that you do to improve care, to send babies home healthy in the arms of their families whether you work in the NICU, or pump milk at home – it’s a very special community that I feel honored to participate in. Thanks for listening.