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BMH offers reassurance, advice to parents during current formula shortage

BRATTLEBORO—While the current shortage of infant formula has been a source of concern for families across the nation, providers at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Birthing Center say the situation need not become a threat to the safety and well-being of new parents and their little ones.

“The state of Vermont and the federal government are working hard to help families affected by the baby formula shortage,” Leah Nussbaum, perinatal supervisor and lactation consultant at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Birthing Center, said in a news release. “And whether you’re expecting a newborn or already have a baby at home, there’s a lot of things you can do.”

Nussbaum advises people who are pregnant to have a breast pump on hand — or plan to get one when their child is born. All insurances will pay for a breast pump, and the staff at both Four Seasons OB/GYN & Midwifery and BMH’s Birthing Center can help patients obtain them.

Whether breast- or chestfeeding, be sure to connect with a skilled lactation support specialist — even before your baby arrives. People who are combination feeding (i.e., human milk and formula) should consider increasing the amount they are nursing during the shortage. Your obstetrician or pediatrician can assist in finding lactation resources in your area if you need help.

Parents who are formula feeding are warned not to water down store-bought formula or to make their own formula at home.

For most babies, it’s fine to switch from one brand of milk-based or soy-based formula to another. And if your baby needs a special kind of formula, talk to your pediatrician.

If you use or want to use human milk to supplement, the Vermont Donor Milk Center is waiving its requirement for a prescription for the first 40 ounces of milk dispensed to a family and is providing financial assistance for families who need it during the shortage.

Nussbaum also offers the following advice:

• Do not give babies younger than 6 months old any water, tea, or juice.

• Only put what your baby will drink in the bottle to avoid waste.

• And regardless of the current shortage, which is expected to be over in the next two to three months, buy formula from only legitimate and safe sources. Some online sellers will replace the labels or sell outdated formula.

The Vermont Department of Health has a website with information and resources at healthvermont.gov/formula-shortage. Staff at your local Vermont Department of Health office can provide tips and advice on safely feeding your baby. To find an office near you, visit healthvermont.gov/local.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #665 (Wednesday, May 25, 2022). This story appeared on page A3.

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