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Your Healthy Family: Is breastfeeding a solution to the formula shortage? Not for everyone

Posted at 2:58 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 16:58:17-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Over the last several years we have learned, hopefully, that there are certain things we can’t take for granted - such items you would never think of having a hard time finding on the store shelves, like toilet paper in 2020 and now, baby formula.

While there may have been a few workarounds during the great toilet paper shortage, for many parents right now, the formula shortage is causing serious issues. For some, it’s leading to hospitalization of their children.

I spoke with Registered Nurse and Lactation Consultant Sherri Taylor at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs where lactations experts stay busy, usually seeing 12 to 14 patients daily. And over the last several weeks, they have seen mothers who may not have considered breastfeeding but are now asking questions about it because of the formula shortage.

“I would say yes (we are getting) more questions. Not all of them come to the lactation consultants directly, but family concerns are being addressed with the nursing staff and they alert us that the family needs a little more education or resources.”

This is a good time to clear up some misconceptions some people may have about lactation consultants, says Sherri. A good lactation consultant will never try to force breastfeeding on a new mom. “We are here to support whatever the feeding choice is, so even if it were formula, we would want to talk to that mother about milk onset and how to dry her milk. Because that can be a dangerous situation in terms of mastitis; A lot of problems can occur due to that so we are here to help her with whatever she needs.”

Still, the benefits of breastfeeding are widely known and established. Sherri says, “If you go to any (credible) resource you’re going to learn the advantages of (breastfeeding). The term I’ve been using recently is a vaccination - the colostrum is a low-fat, high-protein vaccine snack that the baby gets multiple times a day.”

For the new moms who have made the choice in their birthing plans to breastfeed, that’s where a lactation consultant comes in. “We are here to set her up with the proper mechanics to get that latch correct. If we can set her up and get her that confidence before leaving the hospital, breastfeeding is likely going to be successful.”

There are also a multitude of reasons breastfeeding may not be the best option or even possible for some moms: “Anatomical reasons, or we have mother-infant separation reasons, medical concerns of the mother, there can be hormonal imbalances. Multiple things can affect (a mother’s ability to breastfeed) and we flag those reasons often and we address them with education and help as much as we can.”

For parents using formula, Sherri recommends, “Look at the lot numbers and expiration dates because we did have the (formula) recall and I think a lot of that formula is still in closets and pantries, so pay attention to that absolutely.”

She also says it’s not a good idea to try to make your own formula and stressed: “Do not water the formula down to make it stretch in any way; it’s very dangerous for the baby. There was recent information about cow's milk being OK at about six months (of age) depending on the baby, so be cautious.”

For some moms caught in the middle of the formula shortage, or who are close to giving birth and are now considering breastfeeding so they don’t have to worry about what may happen with the formula shortage in the future, Sherri says as lactation consultants, “Of course we love breastfeeding. We do feel like it is best for the baby but not all women can breastfeed and that’s OK. Everybody has the right to feed their baby the way they want to; we’re not arguing with that. We are here to support whatever it is within the confines of sharing research-based information on what’s best for you and the baby. We do share the advantages of breastfeeding, which are wonderful, but again not all mothers can and we understand that. We are a nonjudgmental organization. We try to support a mother’s needs and feeding their baby within the confines of the family abilities - her abilities, emotional or whatever else. We are here to support the family in any way we can.”

There is also an active online new parent support group from UCHealth in Colorado Springs that meets once a week to offer support to any new mom, whether she delivered at a UCHealth hospital in Colorado Springs or not. Sherri says, “We have a new parent support group and we have outpatient clinics at both hospitals and that’s usually driven by a pediatrician referral. We also offer phone support so however we can - we give you resources about who to turn to online that are research-based sites that give you viable information that has been researched.”

UCHealth’s virtual parent support group meets every Tuesday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Parents have the opportunity to meet other new parents, ask questions and get feeding support. To register, email MemorialLactationTeam@uchealth.org

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