April 4th, 2011

planet

cows that make human milk?

So this is freaky weird, and all over the internet but I gotta weigh in:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/geneticmodification/8423536/Genetically-modified-cows-produce-human-milk.html

So far the opinion from science-minded people seems to be "hmm, cool" while the opinion from breastfeeding women is, of course, "they did WHAT?!"

Are we sick of science trying to duplicate what we do? That's part of it. Breastmilk is weird stuff. You can't duplicate it. It changes every day... based on the age of your baby, what antibodies you're currently making for the illnesses you've both been exposed to, your diet. It tastes different every day. It's different for every woman. It's even different during different times of the day... it gets sweeter and fattier at night. And it's definitely uniquely human, science is even learning about the helpful properties of ingredients of breastmilk that aren't even digested by babies.

But here's what's really annoying: there are lots of things we could be doing, cheap things, to increase the amount of human milk that babies get. We could start with education: public awareness campaigns and classes to let the world know how important it is, and that there's help available for women who want to breastfeed. I still see questions on forums all the time to the effect of "it's a good idea to give my baby formula since I just had her and I'm not making milk yet right?" AH NO! The basics of not sabotaging yourself are fairly simple, lactation consultants work wonders. The four hour class I took for $15 made a huge difference in how I approached breastfeeding, but I've heard other hospitals charge as much as $100, that's just not practical for a lot of women.

Second, I acknowledge that some women just can't breastfeed, and that's why I'm so frustrated that donor milk isn't more readily available. Why are there only 20-some milk banks in all of North America, is it that difficult to screen and pasteurize breastmilk? The closest milk bank to where I live is five hours away! Yes, I donated milk anyway but I gotta say, it was a pain in the ass. Websites like milkshare and eatsonfeets have nearly as many donors as they do recipients looking for milk, at least in my area. One of my recipients was one of those genetically chronically late people who made me feel like I was waiting for the cable guy just to unload my freezer, but there wasn't exactly a line of recipients at the door. It's unscreened private donation we're doing here. You show a copy of your medical records, they trust you. It's a little weird.

But definitely not as weird as genetically modified cows! So people seriously, let's tackle some simple issues about this problem first. We're a long ways away from duplicating breastmilk, I say we start doing a better job managing the milk we've got.