Public Health and Lactation Consultants Give Advice on Feeding Baby During Formula Shortage

(SAVANNAH, GA) It’s a situation that has hit parents from Savannah to every corner of the U.S. The nation is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of baby formula due to supply chain issues coupled with recalls and production shut-downs.

While government agencies, suppliers and stores scramble to get stock back on shelves, many parents are wondering how and what to feed their infants.

Nandi A. Marshall, DrPH, MPH, CHES ®, CLC, is an associate professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs with the Center for Public Health Practice and Research Affiliate Faculty, Department of Health Policy and Community Health at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University. She says parents can look for alternatives to infant formula during the shortage and suggests these five options:

1) BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT. Zipmilk [https://www.zipmilk.org/] is a way to find breastfeeding support. This is a clearinghouse website that provides a platform for individuals and businesses that serve the breastfeeding community to share information about their services.

“If you are already breastfeeding or pumping and concerned about your milk supply, consider working with a lactation consultant to maintain or increase your milk supply,” Marshall said.

Shawntay Gadson, MHA, IBCLC, is the owner of Glow Lactation and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with over 1500 hours of directly supervised clinical training. She hosts breastfeeding support groups and is now offering free support calls to parents who wish to start re-lactation.

“I’ve worked with moms who struggled with milk production,” said Gadson. “They often get discouraged knowing that breastmilk is the best source of food for their babies and that this is the best thing they can do for their child, but in some cases, supplementing with formula is necessary. Other parents who can provide breast milk may not have the education or support to start and continue. We want to change those narratives and let those parents know the help they need is available through education, support groups and access to care beyond the hospital.”

2) BREASTMILK BANKS. Many breastfeeding moms are donating excess breastmilk to human milk banks. For more information and to find a bank near you, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America [https://www.hmbana.org/] This agency accredits more than 30 nonprofit milk banks in the United States and Canada. Member milk banks follow rigorous guidelines for donor milk safety and pasteurization.

3) LISTEN TO AND LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine [https://www.bfmed.org/statement-on-shortage-of-breastmilk-substitutes] recommends seeking breastfeeding education. During the crisis, mothers not currently lactating should consider pasteurized donor human milk or re-lactating. The Academy also advises against using homemade formulas or cow’s milk.

“The Academy recommends that you should avoid feeding your baby younger than one year of age regular cow’s milk as it can lead to serious consequences such as iron deficiency which can harm cognitive development,” said Marshall. “However, in an emergency, for infants 6 months to 1 year of age, the Academy says cow’s milk may be used for a short time on the order of days. This is considered safer than diluting or making homemade formula. You should consult your baby’s doctor if you have to give your baby cow’s milk under one year of age as they will need to monitor your baby’s iron status.”

4) CONSIDER RE-LACTATION. It is possible for some mothers, especially those who stopped breastfeeding recently, to re-induce lactation successfully and bring in their milk supply. The American Academy of Pediatrics [https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Relactation.aspx#:~:text=%E2%80%8BThe%20American%20Academy%20of,mother%20and%20baby%20desire%20it.] suggests nursing the baby frequently, whenever they show signs of hunger.

“Your baby may not be eager to nurse as you are building back your milk supply,” said Marshall. “You may need to add some positive reinforcement such as formula or donor human milk. Having a good-quality breast pump also helps.”

5) SEEK COUNSELING AND SUPPORT. Check with your pediatrician for a lactation consultant near you or visit the HERO database [https://herohelpme.com] for a full list of resources from help with paying the rent to emotional support.

“You can also reach out to your support system and let them know what brand formula you are using to be on the lookout for that particular formula,” said Gadson. “Your support system can be family, friends, colleagues, and social media groups. “A local Facebook group, ‘Moms of Savannah & Surrounding Areas,’ is sharing formula supplies and being a great support to each other.”

Gadson also hosts support groups including, “Mommy Moments for Breastfeeding,” a venue for Black mothers to share their breastfeeding journey and encourage and empower each other. She also provides the “Breastfeeding Community Advocates Workshop,” a training program that advocates and promotes breastfeeding throughout the community. For more information, visit www.glowlactation.com.

Locally, a network of partners that include the YMCA of Coastal Georgia and Healthy Savannah through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Racial & Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant is dedicated to closing the gap in health disparities among various populations in Savannah and Chatham County, and many of those disparities are rooted in nutrition.

The partnership supports breastfeeding as the healthiest way to feed a baby but is dedicated to ensuring parents have all the resources they need to provide healthy choices for their families.

ABOUT THE YMCA OF COASTAL GEORGIA/HEALTHY SAVANNAH GRANT FOR RACIAL AND ETHNIC APPROACHES TO COMMUNITY HEALTH: In September 2018, Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia were awarded a five-year, $3.4 million grant called Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health. Awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the funding is being deployed in an “upstream” approach by the Savannah/Chatham County project team to foster sustainable health equity among Black residents in low-wealth neighborhoods. The aim of the local project, called Healthy Opportunities Powering Equity, or HOPE, is to increase the availability of high-quality nutrition; promote physical activity through creating greater access to safe places to walk, run, bike and play; and foster stronger connections between people and the healthcare providers who serve them. Working with more than 200 community partners and organizations, the team is committed to elevating the health and wellness of the community through policy, systems, and environmental change.
healthysavannah.org ymcaofcoastalga.org.

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