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Formula Shortage: Why Many Mothers Can’t Breastfeed

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With the recent national formula shortage campaign, breastfeeding is often suggested to mothers as a natural alternative, but it’s not that simple, according to a recent report from The New York Times.

“TRY BREASTFEEDING. It’s free and available on demand,” said the singer and actress Bette Midler, 76, tweeted on Thursday, May 12 in response to the national formula shortage.

“Most mothers have the ability to breastfeed, so I think it’s hard for them to understand what it’s like for a mother who can’t. As a new mum we are told breastfeeding is so important, even before the baby is born, they After working with five lactation consultants, I was not cut out for it,” said Misty Mortezaie , 40, first-time mother to Fox News.

The New York native, who has now started a family in California, had no choice – she could only use formula to feed her daughter, now just over a year old.

Midler then qualified her comments on Twitter: “No shame if you can’t breastfeed, but if you can and you’re somehow convinced that your own milk isn’t as good as it is. ‘a ‘scientifically studied product’ is something else entirely. »


But around two in three infants are not exclusively breastfed for 6 months – and the rate has not improved for more than two decades, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with the goal of breastfeeding for at least a year, according to one version.

“Although most infants receive breast milk, most are not exclusively breastfed or do not continue breastfeeding for as long as recommended,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the 2019-2020 CDC National Immunization Survey, 56.7% of infants surveyed were breastfed at 6 months, with that number dropping to 35% at one year, but only 25.8% of infants were exclusively breastfed during 6 months.

The agency noted that many factors influence how long a breastfeeding mother can breastfeed, including lactation and latching issues, concerns about infant nutrition and weight, drug interactions, drug policies, hostile work or parental leave, lack of family support and cultural norms.

Grocery store shelves where infant formula is usually stored are locked and nearly empty in Washington, DC on May 11, 2022.
(Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

But the nationwide formula shortage is pushing more mothers to breastfeed, with some trying to find ways to start after they’ve already stopped, but breasts need constant baby feedback to produce milk, according to the Times.

After a baby latches on to drink milk, this initiates the “descent” reflex where the mammary nerves are stimulated, triggering the hormone prolactin to stimulate milk production and another hormone known as oxytocin to release, or “lower,” milk, according to Healthline.

But the body’s feedback loops for breastfeeding “are not particularly resilient, in the sense that once they’re over, it’s very difficult to rebuild them,” said Dr. Casey Rosen-Carole, director from the Nursing and Breastfeeding Medicine Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. .


This can increase stress for mothers trying to breastfeed after quitting by pushing their bodies to almost defy physiology, Rosen-Carole added.

Even though breastfeeding is recommended as the healthiest option for babies, mothers are often ridiculed for this practice in public, while other mothers fear being judged for not following what is often seen as maternal ideal, according to the Times.

“I felt incredibly guilty and tried to hide it. You’re already so emotional from the shift in hormones, then add the fact of not being able to provide something that’s supposed to be so natural and to happen automatically, you feel like you’ve already failed as a mother added Mortezaie.

But despite more breastfeeding rooms in some offices, airports and now hundreds of “baby-friendly” hospitals to promote breastfeeding, many mothers don’t breastfeed or simply can’t, according to the Times.

Formula Shortage: Why Many Mothers Can’t Breastfeed

The shelves where infant formula is normally available are almost empty.
(Jason Rantz)


Breastfeeding can also lead to medical complications, including cracked and bleeding nipples, clogged ducts, and mastitis, where breast tissue becomes infected.

Expecting every woman to breastfeed “is not grounded in reality. Not every person can produce all the insulin they need. That’s why there’s a condition called type 1 diabetes – and we’re not saying, ‘Well, if you try harder, you wouldn’t need this medicine,’ said obstetrician Dr Alison Stuebe – gynecologist and distinguished infant nutrition researcher at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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