Milkscreen, No Fooling: Shame on You

I don’t usually write this much about breastfeeding, but this last few weeks have just been like that.milkscreen

I read this statement, and as it was designed to do, I immediately felt guilty for being part of the movement to remove this product from shelves.

I do not feel guilty anymore.

Let’s start with the first paragraph:

We Heard You, and Are Discontinuing Sales of Milkscreen Assessment

As a mom owned and operated company our goal is to help women continue breastfeeding and Milkscreen Assessment was designed solely with this purpose in mind.  However, due to recent feedback and the misperceptions surrounding this product, we have decided to discontinue Milkscreen Assessment sales indefinitely and have told our retailers to also stop selling the product. While you may not agree with the testing collection method we hope you will take the opportunity to understand how and why the product was developed. We care that people who support breastfeeding as we do understand our intentions: to reduce the number of moms who quit breastfeeding  by providing encouragement and reassurance through this test. ”

Because I am magnanimous, I will give them the incorrect use of “due to,” and the missing commas.

“As a mom owned and operated company our goal is to help women continue breastfeeding and Milkscreen Assessment was designed solely with this purpose in mind.” Oh, really? It sounds to me like Milkscreen Assessment was designed for the purpose of making money; you saw a niche and you decided to take advantage of it. I don’t begrudge companies who make a profit by providing a service or product. I truly don’t. Ethical companies do this by seeing a lack and filling the gap. Unethical companies do this by creating a product or service with dubious usefulness and then trying to convince everyone that they need whatever is being sold. The problem I see here is that there are already effective ways of determining whether a mother is producing sufficient milk for her child and they never start with “pump milk so we can see how much we get.” Pretty much any health care professional can determine if your supply is adequate by asking you questions about your baby’s behavior and weight gain. You don’t even have to take your breast out.

At the end of the paragraph, they assert their intentions were good, “to reduce the number of moms who quit breastfeeding  by providing encouragement and reassurance through this test. ” Those sound like honorable intentions. As my dad would say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m sure that when Nestle first created a formula in 1867 for a baby whose mother couldn’t breastfeed, his intentions were good too: to feed a baby that would otherwise starve. His intentions have morphed into a monster that is anything but honorable, but we’ll still give Milkscreen the benefit of the doubt for now.

On to the second paragraph:

Why Milkscreen Assessment was Created

According to the Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ article “Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mothers’ Self-reported Reasons for Stopping During the First Year,” the perception of inadequate breast milk supply was cited as 1 of the top 3 reasons mothers stop breastfeeding regardless of weaning age (43.5%–55.6%).  Milkscreen Assessment was designed to give mom a tool to better determine milk production and encourage continued breastfeeding. For most (~93%), the test reassures mom she is making enough milk and to keep up the good work.  If the test shows production is low, mom is reassured that production can be increased and is referred to a breastfeeding professional in hopes of preventing early weaning or unnecessary supplementation.”

Sounds great! They are absolutely right! The AAP has shown that inadequate milk supply is one of the top reasons mothers stop nursing. Then they claim that around 93% of mothers show producing adequate or an abundance of milk. Ok, then. Where did that number come from? 93% of nursing moms can pump enough milk into your bag and then answer your questions sufficiently that you’ll return the knowledge that she’s making enough milk? Really? Since even a Google search can’t return a percentage on how many women do not make enough milk or how many women who nurse can’t pump and a significant number of women who successfully breastfeed can’t pump anything, I’m going to leave it to your imagination where that number came from.

Now onto my favorite paragraph:

Technical Basis of Milkscreen Assessment

Developed by medical and breastfeeding experts, the test is based on a peer reviewed, published scientific study which uses pumping as the collection method.  Though breast milk volume generated from pumping can be different than that generated from feeding at the breast, this process provides a reasonable estimate of mom’s daily production.  In addition to milk collection, the test asks mom approximately 30 questions about her breastfeeding habits as well as baby’s weight gain.  All of this information is used to generate a personalized report, which identifies any breastfeeding issues and gives suggestions on overcoming them, which always includes a referral to a breastfeeding professional.   Our goal was to reassure mothers who have a normal or even high supply, and to provide encouragement, support, and direction to those who have low supply. ”

What study and who are your experts? You don’t get to make claims like this without the info to back them up. Do you have a link? Can you at least provide us with the name so we can verify your claims independently? This can be boiled down pretty concisely to “We’re sorry you’re too stupid to understand why this was a good method, but we’re not going to give you the pertinent details so you can figure it out yourself. Neener, neener.”

The next sentence infuriates me: “Though breast milk volume generated from pumping can be different than that generated from feeding at the breast, this process provides a reasonable estimate of mom’s daily production.”

No, no it doesn’t. Every reputable breastfeeding resource on the planet disagrees with this assessment. Milk Production La Leche League International Kellymom: Increasing Low Milk Supply The Leaky Boob: Help, my milk supply is low! Or is it? The only people this might be helpful for are moms who exclusively pump. (Mad props, by the way, to moms who EP. You guys are my heroes.)

“In addition to milk collection, the test asks mom approximately 30 questions about her breastfeeding habits as well as baby’s weight gain.”

Ok, so theoretically, I could just answer all of your questions, get no milk from the pump and I could still have the answer come back as “your baby is getting plenty of milk” at least 93% of the time? I have to wonder what the point of the collection bag was at all then. Oh, right. We’re basing this on a mythical study where the ability to pump equates with the ability to produce.

“All of this information is used to generate a personalized report, which identifies any breastfeeding issues and gives suggestions on overcoming them, which always includes a referral to a breastfeeding professional.”

Whoa! Your report always includes a referral to a breastfeeding professional? What do I need you for then? Why didn’t you just tell me that if I’m concerned, I should talk to an IBCLC? Not only have I wasted my money on a test that probably told me I’m not producing enough because the amount of milk in that bag after I pumped would be 0 oz, but now you’re just telling me to do what I should have done in the first place and talk to a professional?

“Our goal was to reassure mothers who have a normal or even high supply, and to provide encouragement, support, and direction to those who have low supply. ”

In the beginning I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt about your intentions, but now I’m not. This product definitely falls into the unethical category of products. Instead of seeing a void and filling it, you saw an opportunity to profit from moms’ self-doubt (and create even more self-doubt because you absolutely can’t pump as much as you produce) with every intention of telling them to do exactly what they should have done in the first place: talk to a professional.

You don’t get to make me feel guilty. Shame on you for taking advantage of nursing mothers. Shame, shame, shame.

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