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We can't imagine what many moms are going through with the formula shortage. Not being able to feed your baby is probably the most difficult thing a new mom can go through. We spent some time with Emily Sylvester, IBCLC, RD of Mother of Fact to talk about some helpful tips to get through this difficult time. You can watch our live Instagram interview at the end of this article.
Before we get started, we would like to point out that anything related to your baby's medical nutrition should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician.
The Milk Bank is a wonderful substitute, although not an exclusive option since that milk is reserved for the most fragile babies. Requests for human milk have increased 89% since the beginning of the shortage. (You can donate through our Give an Ounce Campaign here.) Friends and family are also a great option for sharing milk. Please be cautious if you are purchasing breast milk online and ask yourself if it's a safe, reputable source. You can also look on Facebook to see if your local community has started a support group. Many moms have been posting extra breast milk in those groups.
We all have see people's posts about homemade formula recipes. This should be the last choice, although it isn't recommended at all. We now know due to advances in science that those recipes are not adequate for what babies need nutritionally.
There are other things you can do before making your own formula. If you are partially breastfeeding, you can try to increase your breast milk supply (here are tips and foods to try). Try to get donated breast milk. If you are formula feeding and you can't find your brand, find a similar brand or use another type of infant formula. We don't recommend shipping in formulas from other countries. It's not to say they aren't safe, it's just that the safety of the formula might be compromised during shipping. Your other choices are checking with your pediatrician, checking stores and monitoring social communities for local stock.
Depending on the age of your baby, you can check with your pediatrician to see if solid foods can be given. If your baby is close to a year, you may be able to start on cow's milk but work with your healthcare provider on how much. You should also offer foods that are high in iron since cow's milk doesn't have iron in it, which is important for your baby nutritional needs.
If you are about to give birth and are trying to prepare for feeding your baby, make sure your support network is in place. Ask your healthcare provider to direct you to lactation resources, whether it's a mom's group led by a lactation counselor or having the hospital phone number. Make sure you get as much guidance in the hospital before you go home. Empty your breasts early, check latch and feel comfortable with your breast pump. If you don't know, be sure to ask!
This shortage has affected different areas of the population differently. Unfortunately, people who have more resources may access things more easily. When it gets to the point when you're down to the last can of formula, you may be wondering if you can stretch the formula or feed the baby juice, soda, tea or water. These are wonderful questions, but these solutions are not recommended. You can stretch the formula, but it does change the nutritional composition of the formula so that it's watered down. When formula is watered down, nutrients like potassium, calcium and iron are much lower that what Baby needs. You can bring up these questions to your lactation consultant, dietitian or healthcare provider.
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine released this statement and is a great resource for feeding baby, whether expecting, not breastfeeding, partially breastfeeding or fully breastfeeding.
Emily is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She has worked in lactation and pediatric dietitian for thirteen years. You can find Emily at Mother of Fact, an all-in-one app where you can get nutritional and feeding guidance 24/7. You get a feeding expert, product recommendations and daily guidance at your fingertips. Follow her on Instagram!