FORMULA SHORTAGE

By: Michelle Faoro, RN, IBCLC

In light of the national formula shortage, FCI Breastfeeding wanted to help inform moms on how they can prepare, ease their anxieties, and get the help they need during this unprecedented time.  Our purpose is to equip moms who are not able to provide breastmilk with necessary next steps in order to feed their babies.

Only about 25% of infants are exclusively breastfed until the age of 4 months (most likely due to a lack of support and education not to mention the ridiculous hoop-jumping required by insurance when seeking services but, that’s for another post). That means in the first 12 months, US babies are still drinking a lot of formula.  So… as if the pressure on moms wasn’t great enough, we now have added the anxiety of wondering if there will be enough formula if mom has a supply problem, has to go back to work and can’t pump, baby’s poor suck isn’t stimulating mom’s production, etc. So, what can we do to make sure our babies are all well fed?

If you were already planning to breastfeed your baby, great! Not only are you ensuring you have milk for your baby, you are freeing up formula for moms that cannot provide breastmilk or have a low supply for various health reasons. Here are a few things to help give you the best chance of ensuring you are able to provide as much breastmilk as possible:

  • Go to a prenatal breastfeeding class to prepare before delivery. I can’t stress this enough. We don’t get a do over on baby’s first few weeks and this is the critical time period when we are setting up our milk supply. Moms that go into delivery informed are less anxious and breastfeed longer.   
  • Have a feeding assessment done with a lactation consultant within the first 2 weeks after birth. This will usually include a latch check, test weights before and after feeding to see how much the baby is taking in, as well as, an assessment of baby’s feeding ability. Catching any issue early on is critical not only for your baby’s well-being but, to protect your milk supply. 
  • If you are already breastfeeding and you encounter any difficulty or concern, begin adding in some pumping to protect your milk supply and set up an appointment with our lactation department so we can work with you to figure out the issue and help resolve it.

If you were not planning to breastfeed and are now considering it due to concerns related to the shortage, we are happy to discuss options to help and work on a feeding plan that you feel comfortable with. Exclusive pumping is a great option for moms that prefer not to breastfeed directly. Remember it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Our prenatal class is also very helpful for moms that plan to exclusively pump. Learn how to size your pump flanges, how often and red flags. 

For moms that have an over abundance of milk, the “super-producers” out there…this is your moment! There is ALWAYS a need for human milk in our milk banks. Our NICU babies and babies with complex medical issues have relied on life-saving human donor milk for years now however, the already low stores of human milk at milk banks due to a huge decrease in donations during Covid, has taken an even bigger hit due to the current formula shortage. Please consider donating your extra milk to save these critically ill and extremely premature infants.  You can find information at https://milkbankofflorida.org

Lastly, employers consider accommodating moms that need to pump while at work. While technically required by law, many organizations are exempt from this law due to a loophole. It is critical that pumping moms are provided a reasonable amount of time and appropriate space and environment to keep up with the needs of their baby while they are separated. Our guess is that workers that are not anxious about feeding their babies will probably make much more productive employees. Please consider what’s at stake.

There are many valid reasons why some moms choose not to or are unable to breastfeed and the purpose of this post is not to persuade or shame anyone for their personal feeding choice or ability but, to provide support. 

FCI Breastfeeding is here to support and prepare you with all the tools and practices to ensure the best possible options for you and your baby while on this journey.  We offer free prenatal consults, free hands-on prenatal breastfeeding classes with use of dolls for practice, and exclusive lactation consultation with you and your baby after delivery and any time after.  We are here to be your resource and hope to leave you with the skills and expertise you need to enter this phase of life with ease.

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