Alternatives to get you through the baby formula shortage

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The nationwide baby formula shortage is affecting parents across the country. Here in Tennessee, the state is one of the top five states seeing formula shortage at 54%.

“Fortunately, in our area, it seems like most families are able to find formula through resources, but they’re spending a lot of energy, time, and effort,” said Jason Yaun, Division Chief of Outpatient Pediatrics at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC).

Over 42% of mothers across the country use formula to feed their babies.

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Many ask about turning to breastfeeding, but that may also be a problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), multiple factors influence breastfeeding, like an earlier return to work or lack of knowledge about the health benefits of breastfeeding.

“One area we continue to struggle in our area is once breastfeeding is started is continuing that,” Yaun said.

Doctors said if you find yourself in a bind, you may reach out to your pediatrician for formula.

“In an extreme pinch, a baby that’s over six months old could be given whole milk for a few days or toddler-based milk,” said Yaun.

“The mothers who have extra milk, it can actually save another’s baby’s life if you pasteurize it and make it available to the NICUs,” said Susan Campbell, the executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank of Tennessee.

That is the mission of Mother’s Milk Bank of Tennessee, a non-profit milk bank dedicated to providing safe, pasteurized donor human milk to NICU babies in the southeast.

“The Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care did some research that it could help serious infection for babies in the NICU,” said Campbell.

READ MORE: FDA closes investigation into contaminated powdered infant formula produced by Abbott Nutrition

The U.S. baby formula shortage has sparked some parents’ interest in milk banks just like Mothers’ Milk Bank.

But, many milk banks prioritize feeding NICU babies. So, it’s not an option.

“We’re super careful, and that is why pasteurized donor human milk is not inexpensive,” Campbell said.

To offset the shortage and lack of access to milk through milk banks, some moms are selling their excess milk.

“They have milk they want to sell online. That happens, but it’s very risky because there are viruses quite common, but if you got a baby who is immunocompromised and got donor milk that was unpasteurized from that mom, they would be at risk of developing that viral infection,” Campbell said.

If you’d like to learn if you’re eligible to donate to Mother’s Milk Bank, CLICK HERE.