‘Medolac Laboratories Targeting Black Moms In Detroit,’ Breastfeeding Advocates Claim

Dawn Papple

Medolac Laboratories is under fire from protesters led by Detroit’s Black Mothers’ Breast Feeding Association. The breastfeeding advocates in Detroit claim that the Oregon corporation is both targeting and exploiting low-income African-American lactating women. Protesters have been assembling signatures and contacting the media.

Kiddada Green, director of the Black Mothers’ Breast Feeding Association, claims that Medolac is targeting low-income black mothers for their breast milk.

“They are asserting that this is a social movement,” Green, according to a report about the Medolac protests in the Detroit News on Tuesday.

“But I think it’s exploitation. It’s profit-driven.”

Mothers Milk Cooperative is a milk bank with members primarily in Michigan. Lactating women sell excess breast milk for one dollar an ounce. According to the Detroit News, the milk is tested and then sold to hospitals with the intent of providing optimal nutrition for infants fighting for life in NICUs across the country. The milk is currently purchased by the hospitals at a price of four times what the milk bank purchased it for. The milk bank co-op has a thousand members, but the need for quality breast milk in hospitals is far greater than the supply.

Medolac recently announced a new partnership with the milk bank and a commitment to encourage prolonged breastfeeding among black moms.

Medolac representatives say that by purchasing milk from black women, the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action to Increase Breastfeeding campaign encourages black moms to breastfeed and connect with their babies by getting paid for excess milk. There will be a financial incentive to continue nursing if women are paid for excess milk, Medolac argued, stating that the campaign will provide much-needed money to nursing moms and much-needed milk to newborn babies.

One breastfeeding activist, from the blog View From A Rack, likened Medolac’s plans for the lactating women to slavery.

Activist Afrykayn Moon, also president of Detroit-based Breastfeeding Mothers Unite, is exceptionally concerned that some Detroit women will believe that they can either pump milk for money or give it to their children, according to the Detroit Free Press. She says that Medolac is targeting Detroit’s low-income women because many do not realize the benefits the milk would provide to their children.

The protesting members of Black Mothers’ Breast Feeding Association say there is no certainty that purchasing milk from black women will encourage them to breastfeed longer or even breastfeed their babies at all. They worry that Medolac’s new venture could cause black women to sell breast milk that would otherwise be given to their babies.

Medolac denies the accusations of targeting.

“We would never take milk from a poor woman who didn’t have enough for their own babies,” Elena Medo, chairwoman and CEO of Medolac Laboratories, explained.

Medolac issued a press release last month to address concerns raised by a blogger. The press release explained that there is a dire need for human milk donors.

“The unfortunate reality is that the current scarcity of donor milk is forcing neonatal departments to choose which preterm babies will receive donor milk and which ones will be deprived of it.”

Danielle Atkinson, director of Royal Oak’s Mothering Justice, is also hesitant about Medolac’s milk-buying campaign. Detroit already has a premature birth rate of 18 percent, according to the Royal Oak group. Mothering Justice prepared an open letter to Medolac expressing their concern and requesting answers to questions that are troubling them. The letter asks why Medolac chose Detroit to “target,” among other questions.

“We are eager for all mothers to breastfeed their children for as long as works for their families, but we are deeply concerned that targeting women within one of America’s hardest hit urban centers is motivated by profit rather than concern about encouraging breastfeeding in our community.”

Activists are especially concerned with the fact that Medolac’s website states that the “development of new human milk based applications and products” is a priority area of research. Breastfeeding activists want to know exactly what kind of products Medolac plans to develop with the breast milk from Detroit’s nursing moms.

[Photo via Twitter]