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West MI breastfeeding group busy amid formula shortage

Kalamazoo Breastfeeding Coalition is getting a lot of phone calls from desperate parents. They are helping some breastfeed who weren't able to before.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Breastfeeding Coalition is getting a lot of phone calls from desperate parents. They are not able to find baby formula in stores, and searching for some options. 

In some cases, the coalition can help parents who did not plan on breastfeeding before to do so. Katie Pearson, a lactation consultant, said even if a baby is six months old and the mother never breastfed, she might be able to. 

"From a physiological process, it is absolutely possible," said Pearson, "Is it as easy as turning on a switch? No." 

She added it could take a few weeks and the parent should seek a professional specialist. 

If formula is a parent's only option, Pearson suggests first trying milk sharing. However, there are rules. 

"It should come from a trusted source," said Pearson. "No one should have to buy breast milk. Unfortunately, there are folks online selling breast milk, but they may be watering it down with water or cows milk, which is really dangerous for baby."

If a parent decides to milk share, they should know the health history of the donor. 

Pearson reiterated calls by health professionals to not try and make homemade baby formula. It can be very dangerous for a baby. 

She said posts going around social media showing a 1960s formula recipe is actually evident of a larger issue. She said in the 1960s, the U.S. had very high malnutrition rate and underfed babies were a public health crisis.

"That was caused, quite frankly, by a lot of the homemade infant formula," said Pearson, "So, there is no evidence-based research to support any homemade infant formula."

In response, she said the government created WIC, Women, Infant, and Children in the early 1970s.

Pearson pointed out those affected by the baby formula shortage now are often lower-income to moderate-income families, people who have service jobs who may need to go back to work shortly after having babies. 

"The largest demographic of breastfeeding people are college educated white women," said Pearson, "One could argue the most people affected are lower income to moderate income folks."

She said she now has clients who are breastfeeding who otherwise would not have due to the formula shortage. However, that is not always an option for every parent. 

"This is why formula exists," said Pearson, "Formula exists for the rare occurrence of when mom can’t produce breast milk. I would urge anyone who can produce breast milk, or can even just produce breast milk and supplement with a smaller amount of formula, that’s going to save the formula for the people who really really need it."

RELATED VIDEO: Is there a baby formula shortage? West MI mom struggles to find products in stores

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