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Families seek help from lactation counselors amid baby formula shortage

Lactation counselors see an increase in families seeking alternatives like donated breast milk
Posted at 8:51 AM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 09:53:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As parents continue to find ways to keep their babies fed amid a nationwide baby formula shortage, some families have begun relying on lactation consultants.

Lactation consultants help families troubleshoot a variety of obstacles they may face while breastfeeding. Consultants can assist mothers when they have an under or over supply of breast milk, feeding plans and help with potential pain.

Dr. Lauren Hughes with Bloom Pediatrics and Lactation says more families in Kansas City are showing interest in breastfeeding because they no longer have a fallback plan.

“I definitely have seen an uptick of families that were considering stopping breastfeeding and are going to continue breastfeeding because they don't have another option,” Dr. Hughes said.

Depending on your health insurance, Dr. Hughes says initial lactation consultant visits should be covered, but aren't for all families.

“Breastfeeding is not a choice for everyone, whether they physically cannot, where they mentally cannot, breastfeeding is not just an automatic for everyone,” Hughes explained. “Everyone seems to think so because it's a natural thing, but there are people that have true contraindications, whether it's the mom or the baby.”

Mental and physical tolls can also impact mothers trying to nurse their babies.

“You can have anatomical issues where your breasts do not produce milk-making tissue, that absolutely happens and you physically cannot produce milk, just because the way you're built, nothing wrong with you, it’s just the way you were built,” Hughes said.

Interest in donated breast milk has also taken center stage, but depending on where you get breast milk, there are some safety concerns.

According to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, affiliated milk banks go through a rigorous pasteurization process to ensure the breast milk they have is safe and has the right nutrients. The milk bank affiliated with this association in Kansas City was forced to close January 2022 due to staffing challenges.

Dr. Hughes has her own breast milk bank and conducts screen and lab tests on donor moms, but doesn’t test the breast milk. She expects more than 1,000 ounces of breast milk will be donated to her by the end of this week.

“What I have here is pretty trustworthy, because I do screen all donors but I don't test the milk though,” Hughes said. “So there is no 100% guarantee, which I have listed all over my website.”

Some groups on social media are linking parents to centers accepting donating breast milk, but Hughes warns health concerns arise if you don’t get your milk from a trusted source.

“Peer to peer milk sharing, I really suggest avoiding social media groups and not getting milk unless you know the person, you know their health history, you know the medications they're on, you know if they use substances,” Dr. Hughes said. “We don't know what if they're taking edibles, how much they're drinking, like all of these products that they're taking, in that could pass through breast milk and potentially be harmful to your child, depending on your specific child's health history as well.”