by Mike Catlini and Pat Eaton-Robb
The shortage of US baby formula has sparked interest in milk banks around the US, with some mothers offering to donate breast milk and desperate parents are calling to see if this is a good way to feed their babies. is the solution.
It’s a route that won’t work for every formula-fed baby, especially babies with special dietary needs, and it comes with challenges as the nation’s dozens of nonprofits milk banks for medically vulnerable infants. give priority to feeding. Organizations collect milk from mothers and process it through pasteurization, then work with hospitals to distribute it.
The shortage stemmed from a safety recall and supply disruptions and has attracted national attention with panicked parents looking to buy and sell formula online and President Joe Biden has urged manufacturers to increase production and discuss with retailers. How they can restore cabinets to meet regional disparities. Biden’s administration also said on Friday that formula maker Abbott Laboratories is committed to offering discounts through August for a food stamp-like program called WIC to women, infants and children.
At Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast, located in Newton, Massachusetts, there has been an increased interest in donating and receiving milk due to a lack of milk. Usually, the milk bank gets around 30-50 calls a month from people wanting to donate. The bank’s executive director, Deborah Youngblood, said on Thursday alone it received 35 calls from potential donors.
“It’s interesting that the first kind of feedback we got was from potential donors – so people are responding to the lack of formula with a wonderful, kind response asking how can I be part of the solution?” he said.
Youngblood was talking about people like Kayla Gillespie, a 38-year-old mother of three children from Hayes, Kansas. Gillespie first donated it to Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver six years ago, giving 18 gallons (68 liters) after the birth of their first child, and is not planning to do so again.
“I thought 18 gallons was enough for one person,” she said. “If I hadn’t heard of the shortage, I wouldn’t have gone through this process again, simply because I have three kids and it’s a little chaotic here.”
She has promised to deliver at least 150 ounces of milk, but said she expects to deliver much more.
“I’m very blessed with being able to produce milk, so I felt like I needed to do something,” she said.
She said that in the past she has shipped her frozen milk in special containers to Denver, but this time, her local hospital is taking donations and she can drop it.
However, it is not just the donors. Parents desperate for nutrition for their children are adopting milk banks as well.
Youngblood said that at the Massachusetts Milk Bank, about 30 people called in search of milk because they couldn’t find their baby’s normal formula. This is almost no call, as the milk bank usually serves hospitals.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America, an accrediting organization for non-profit milk banks, is seeing a “large increase” in demand, according to group executive director Lindsey Groff. He estimates that there has been a 20% increase in inquiries from parents wanting to fill the formula gap in recent days.
Groff called the shortage a “crisis” and said it is not as simple as simply supplementing donated human milk by parents, as the vast majority of those supplies are earmarked for children with medical conditions.
“If people can donate, now will be the time because when we have more inventory we can look beyond the medically fragile,” she said.
Parents are also turning to online breastmilk-swapping forums to find out what their babies need.
Amanda Castelin, a mother of three from Middlebury, Connecticut, has been supplementing the special formula needed for 10-month-old Emerson with breast milk from a mother found on a peer-to-peer Facebook page called Human Milk 4 Human Babies. ,
Castelin stopped breastfeeding after repeated infections, but tried to start breastfeeding again in March after withdrawing from formula, but with little success.
“Emerson is allergic to most formulas, so it has been difficult to find something they are not allergic to,” she said.
In Nougat, Connecticut, stepdaughter Hannah Bretton was producing more milk than her 2 1/2-month-old son needed. She is giving Castelin about 60 ounces of milk every two weeks. This is enough to supplement his formula supply and keep Emerson fed.
“She asked a bunch of questions — what medications am I taking, if any, that sort of thing,” Breton said. “So we decided, ‘Okay, that’s perfect.’ So, she comes every two weeks and picks up the milk I was saving for her.”
“I feel helpful,” she said. “It’s exciting and rewarding that I can give that to a mom she can’t find, and if her son can’t take formula, I mean, it’s scary.
Rebecca Heinrich, director of Mother’s Milk Bank in Colorado, advises milk seekers that searching for donors yourself can be risky.
“We want to make sure these mothers stay as safe as possible and meet their infant’s needs, so the best way is to consult with your health care provider on how to meet those needs.”
Shortages pose difficulties especially for low-income families after a recall by formula maker Abbott stemming from contamination concerns. The recall ended many of the brands covered by WIC, a federal program such as food stamps serving women, infants, and children, although it now allows brand substitutes.
On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to the head of Abbott Laboratories in which he said he had “serious concerns about access to safe infant formula,” said Abbott taking into account infant formula contracts in the federal WIC program. . Vilsack asked Abbott to continue a program that provided discounts for alternative products, including formula, for competing brands, which he was doing on a month-to-month basis. The White House said Friday that Abbott is committed to the waiver by the end of August.
The Biden administration said it is working with states to make it easier for WIC recipients to purchase different sizes of formulas that may not currently cover their benefits.
Abbott has said that pending Food and Drug Administration approval, he could restart a construction site “within two weeks”.
The company will start production of Alicare, Elementum and Metabolic formulas and then start production of Similac and other formulas. Once production begins, it will take six to eight weeks for the formula to be available on shelves.
On Tuesday, the FDA said it is working with US manufacturers to ramp up their production and streamline paperwork to allow more imports.