Breastfeeding Support During the Formula Shortage
Many parents are wondering how there could be a shortage of infant formula and what they can do to get through the crisis.
When the pandemic struck, supply chains were disrupted, including those that produce infant formula. Compounding the issue is a lack of diversification -- only four manufacturers account for 90% of sales of formula in the USA. An issue with just one of these suppliers can significantly affect the entire market. Manufacturers have also had difficulty gauging and planning for demand due to parents stockpiling formula early in the pandemic and then not purchasing formula as they went through their stash.
In February 2022, one the largest production facilities, Abbott Laboratories in Sturgis, Michigan was shut down due to concerns of contamination. The remaining suppliers were not able to make up for this giant gap in the market quickly enough. This culminated into the current shortage with retailers in major markets like New York City seeing 70% of infant formula out of stock as of May 21, 2022.
This crisis has left many distressed parents clamoring to find dwindling formulas in stores or online. So what is being done about it?
On May 16th, Abbott Nutrition announced their agreement with the FDA to resume production in the Sturgis factory in the coming weeks, with products returning to stores in approximately six to eight weeks.
In the meantime, President Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production and launched Operation Fly Formula which permits federal planes to transport formula from abroad. The FDA’s strict formula guidelines are being temporarily relaxed in order to bring high quality infant formula from countries such as Australia and the UK.
Parents are also stepping up. Across the country, formula exchanges are being organized where parents post about their excess formula. Moms are also using social media to share information about informal breast milk donations. Breast milk banks have also seen a surge in interest from donors and recipients alike.
Mastitis is a common issue for those who breastfeed. Caused by a blocked duct, mastitis includes symptoms of swelling and inflammation at the breast and can be quite painful. It can decrease milk supply in the affected breast and lead to infection requiring treatment with prescription antibiotics. This in turn often leads to pumping and dumping (to avoid the negative impact of antibiotics on baby's digestion and gut health) and a switch to formula.
Our mastitis test strips used in conjunction with the Emily Care app can distinguish between inflammation and actual infection and guide moms towards next steps based on their results–all from the comfort of their own homes. This can help moms breastfeed longer and reduce their need for formula.
Our Emily's Care app now also includes a virtual guided lactation consult which is available 24/7 to answer questions parents may have.
We at Lactation Lab want to do our part to help support parents during the formula crisis -- and beyond.