Lactation education

Lactation specialists provide breastfeeding support during formula shortage

The national shortage of infant formula puts many families in a difficult position. Some even rethink their baby’s feeding plan. While breastfeeding is normal and natural, it’s a personal choice, it’s not always easy, and it’s not for everyone. There is a lot to learn about breastfeeding. Information and support from your healthcare team can make a big difference in helping you succeed.

What is breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is an umbrella term for many infant feeding methods. These methods can include any combination of exclusive breastfeeding, pumping, and offering expressed breastmilk. Expressed breast milk is a term to describe milk that is expressed from the breast by hand or using a pump. You can give expressed breast milk from a bottle or offer the mother’s breast milk in addition to pasteurized donor milk (PDHM) or infant formula.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition. However, every woman has a unique experience when it comes to her breastfeeding journey and infant feeding care plan. In fact, the CDC says that only 1 in 4 infants are exclusively breastfed as recommended by six months of age.

In recent years, more and more families giving birth at Froedtert & MCW birth centers are choosing to breastfeed. Most have a meal plan that involves breastfeeding, and recent data shows that more than 67% of families exclusively breastfeed. For many of these families, the decision to breastfeed was made before concerns about the shortage of infant formula. Families are choosing to breastfeed based on growing evidence of the benefits of breastmilk for the infant, mother and family. Mothers are encouraged to make a diet plan. They should consider all available infant feeding options, assess postpartum goals, and determine what is most comfortable.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Nutrient-rich breast milk is easy to digest, but that’s just one of the many benefits of breast milk. Other important health benefits of breast milk for the baby include:

  • Ideal nutrition for growth and development
  • A stronger immune system, including fewer ear infections, colds and respiratory viruses
  • Protection against certain illnesses and diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and bacterial meningitis
  • Increased gastrointestinal development, fewer digestive problems, and reduced risk of diarrhea and vomiting
  • Increased neurological development
  • Better view
  • Lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Less risk of asthma and certain allergies

For premature babies, breastfeeding can be even more beneficial for healthy development.

Breastfeeding also has benefits for mothers. Besides being cost-effective, research has shown that breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Breastfeeding support

Froedtert & MCW Birth Centers are staffed with Board Certified Lactation Consultants and Certified Lactation Consultants. These specialists offer advice and resources. While you are in hospital, lactation specialists will help you breastfeed, monitor the child’s progress and provide breastfeeding support. The birth center nurses are also trained in lactation. They are available to review your desired feeding plan, your health and that of your baby to help guide your progress.

Educational material on milk supply management is also available. A free breastfeeding guide includes helpful breastfeeding information and expressed milk storage guidelines. All three Froedtert & MCW birth centers offer breastfeeding classes.

What should I do if I can’t find formula?

In May 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics published new emergency direction for families affected by the shortage of infant formula:

  • If baby formula from big stores is out of stock, check smaller stores and pharmacies.
  • If you can afford it, buy formula milk online from reputable distributors or pharmacies.
  • Babies can switch to any available baby formula, including store brands, unless the baby is taking a specific heavily hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula. Check with your pediatrician for suitable available alternatives.

Although choosing another brand of formula may be an option, families may consider hand expression as another option. Hand expression is a technique for removing milk from the breasts using your hand instead of your baby or a pump. This method allows the mother to supplement feedings with her own breast milk.

Froedtert & MCW Birthing Center staff are available to provide education to mothers on hand expression. All Froedtert & MCW Birth Centers offer pasteurized donor milk to support infant feeding during the hospital stay at no additional cost if needed. After discharge, families also receive information on how and where to obtain the PDHM, as well as information on personal expenses.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit: froedtert.com/birth/breastfeeding.