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Mothers and doctors scramble for baby formula amid nationwide shortage

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 5:09 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New mothers in the New Orleans area and their doctors are desperately searching for formula after a massive national recall. The challenges are especially troubling for those with two or three newborns.

For Gill and Rachel Jocks, feeding 9-month-old Melina is job one.

“They are everything. That’s what we live for. They are everything,” said Rachel.

But Melina isn’t alone. She is one of a set of triplets, along with Dominic and Arianna, and they require nearly constant feeding.

“For one baby, it’s scary, but for two or three, it’s really scary,” said Rachel.

Since Abbot shut down its Michigan formula plant in February after a report of bacterial infections, baby formula is scarce on store shelves across the country.

“I can’t remember the last time I saw two formulas on the shelves. It’s been at least three weeks,” said Gil.

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Now many young mothers are reaching out to their doctors for help.

At East Jefferson Women’s Care Clinic in Metairie, doctors are scrambling to find solutions for dozens of mothers in need of formula.

“People on specialty formula say it’s really hard to find. A woman in labor and delivery says Zuppardo’s had some but it was behind the liquor cabinet and they’re only selling it in small quantities so people won’t buy out the whole shelf,” said Dr. Michael Graham, with LCMC Health.

Abbot is expected to ramp up production again in two weeks but it could be six to eight weeks before formula from that plant is available on store shelves.

“My mom is in Nicaragua right now and she was looking,” said Gil.

Since this shortage could go on for a while, medical specialists say it might be a good time for expectant mothers to plan ahead.

“We are trying to accommodate them and make sure they are aware of community resources to protect them and ensure they have a milk supply,” said lactation consultant Lila Luster-Stipe, with LCMC Health.

New mothers are advised to consult social media support groups to try and find formula. There is also the La Leiche league and milk banks, but supplies are often spoken for.

Nestlé is addressing the U.S. baby formula shortage by flying products into the country from...
Nestlé is addressing the U.S. baby formula shortage by flying products into the country from Europe.(Cropped: John Crowley / CC BY-SA 2.0)

“The breastmilk donated by most of those banks are being used by hospitals in the NICU,” said Dr. Graham.

“Consider breastfeeding. It’s good for the baby and the mom as well,” said Stipe.

But that’s not always an option, especially if a mother started breastfeeding and then stopped.

“I was weaning myself off of breastmilk and as soon as I was done, my body stopped producing,” Rachel says. “Then there was a shortage.”

The Jocks family has scraped together a five-week supply for their three infants.

“Good luck to all the parents and hopefully we will get through this together,” said Gil.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says cow milk may be acceptable for babies over six months old, but doctors warn they could have trouble digesting it. They also advise against diluting formula with water or mixing homemade formulas, due to fear of contaminants.

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