Shortage of formula milk: mothers pump breast milk to give to others

For the week ending May 22, nearly three-quarters of formula products nationwide were out of stock at one point, up from 45% the previous week and about 5% at this point last year. according to figures Datasembly shared with CNN.

Sympathetic to moms who now have to go from store to store in search of food for their hungry babies, Demmon decided she couldn’t just read about it, she could do something about it.

“I realized I had a freezer full of milk and I kept pumping,” Demmon said.

She decided to start pumping exclusively so she could donate to a local milk bank.

“I thought it was something I could concretely do in this nightmarish timeline we’re living in right now to concretely help other families,” she said.

Lactation experts across the country have heard of an increasing number of mothers wanting to donate extra breast milk.

Just as with blood donation, a person can safely donate to milk banks established around the world which for decades have helped infants who would otherwise have no or limited access to milk. maternal.

“Milk banks are urgently needed because there are so many preterm formulas that are not available to sick infants,” said Dr. Sheela Rath Geraghty, medical director of the Cincinnati Children’s Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic. “We ask every mother with extra milk to please give some to a human being milk bank.”

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Milk banks have come a long way since the first opened in the United States in the early 1900s at Boston Floating Hospital. In addition to collecting breast milk, banks select, process and distribute it. Much of the limited supply goes to premature babies.
Although breast milk is beneficial for all babies, it can be especially helpful for the 10% of infants in the United States who are born prematurely and who are susceptible to conditions such as necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening bowel disorder. .

The screening part of the process is essential, said Rath Geraghty.

“No woman should ever attempt to give milk directly to another woman’s baby,” she said.

In a 2017 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised against the use of online or informal human milk sharing because milk can expose a baby to bacteria, viruses, or harmful substances.
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The United States Food and Drug Administration also recommends that a parent only use milk from a source that has screened its donors and taken other precautions to ensure the milk is safe.

Demon now goes through the selection process. She had an interview to discuss her health and the medications and supplements she takes. The milk bank will contact her OB/GYN and her child’s pediatrician for further screening. There is a blood test and an initial donation of 50 to 100 ounces of milk. The Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank will perform further testing to ensure there is nothing in the milk that could endanger a medically fragile infant.

“As long as everything is okay at this point, I can start making my ongoing donation,” Demmon said.

Milk banks will often pool milk from several donors or milk from an individual donor that has been donated over time. The milk will usually be pasteurized and put into small containers that can be frozen for up to a year.

Demmon, a filmmaker and professor at Pitt Film & Media Studies, said the bank told her she could take her milk until her baby was 1.5 years old. This means that she will be pumping for the next six months.

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“I was lucky enough to be able to fit breastfeeding and how to work with my work schedule,” she said. “It really is [a] difficult situation, not being able to feed your baby.”

Greater efforts are being made to alleviate some of the shortage. The Biden administration’s Operation Fly Formula has brought tons of product to the United States, and foreign formula makers say they’ll have more to share.

Australian company Bubs plans to send 1.25 million cans to the United States, some of which are ready to ship. Danone will bring half a million cans of its Neocate specialty formula by the end of June, with the hope that families will have access to it in early July. Gerber said 40% of its formula that arrived in the United States on Wednesday would be shipping to retail stores by Sunday evening.

The administration has also been working with formula makers to ramp up production, and Abbott’s crucial plant, offline since February, is expected to restart production this week.

But many grocery store shelves are empty and donor mothers are still needed.

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Marie Milan of Bedford, Oregon, shared Demmon’s sympathy for parents struggling to find formula.

Milan went through the selection process and started donating her breast milk.

“I’m a nurse. I work for one of two local hospitals, so it’s easy for me to donate. I can just bring it to work with me,” she said.

Milan, who has a 6-month-old, said she felt “called” to donate when she saw so many parents unable to find formula.

“When you’re a mom who already naturally questions everything you do, you know, wondering if it’s the right thing to do? You’ve made the decision to formula feed for some reason – n Any reason is valid – and then suddenly you can’t find a formula. I just can’t imagine. It must be so difficult,” said Milan.

“I can’t make formula milk. I can’t buy it at the store. But I can give breast milk, and so I really feel like I have an obligation to do that.”

Millan says she is lucky to produce a lot of milk. In addition to breastfeeding her daughter, she pumps at work twice a day and receives twice as much as her baby needs.

“My freezer is full of breast milk,” Milan said.

Like many moms, she feels a real camaraderie with other moms.

“I can only imagine how difficult it would be to worry about feeding my child,” Milan said. “I really feel like it’s time to help other moms in my community.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen, Danielle Herman and Nadia Kounang contributed to this report


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