April 5, 2011

It's now April 5th, so I promise you, this is not another April Fools joke. If you're reading this, I'm making an educated guess that you prefer the option of breastfeeding to formula. (Just the facts - no judgment.) So at first glance, an article about the Chinese government pursuing an alternative solution to formula is refreshing and surprising... 

Continuing this week's focus on the antibodies (and therefore natural antibiotics) produced in human breastmilk, it's good to see that a potentially new breastmilk substitute gets at the core of why breast is best. However, this new approach involves genetically altering the milk of cows to produce more of the proteins found in human milk.  (Sound of brakes squealing to a halt.) 

Reality check: Setting aside the genetic modification discussion, can we step back for a minute please? Why would you spend a biotech fortune and estimated 10 years force fitting human milk into cows? Oh, the largest population in the world, and therefore the largest demand for a breastmilk substitute? OK I can understand that answer, especially after my recent trip to China, but has anyone thought about the non-sexy low tech approach of formalizing the informal breastmilk banks that already exist there? This is a reminder to record an amazing conversation I had with a family in Beijing who organizes breastmilk donation for local orphans. What if that grassroots effort were studied, streamlined and replicated? I bet it would cost a lot less, be healthier for human babies and as well as healthier for cows.