National infant formula shortage leads some mothers to attempt breastfeeding
When their babies are first born many mothers have a desire and willingness to breastfeed. A lack of support and accessibility to information discourages them from doing it, said advocates during a recent celebration of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Shenell Ford, founder of Heart2Heartbeat Lactation and Wellness in Springfield, said breastfeeding can be challenging for new moms.
"With breastfeeding it takes work, it takes support, it takes commitment and dedication," she said.
Ford said many mothers — particularly Black and Latino first-time moms — try breastfeeding, but switch to formula after several months due to a lack of support.
"The initiation rate — especially in Springfield — we are hovering around 90 (percent), but we see a drastic decrease when we get to the one month mark, the three month mark, the sixth month mark...," she said. "A lot of that is due to systemic issues and and a lack of support that are a disadvantage to the Black and brown community."
With a baby formula shortage still in effect across the country many new and expecting mothers are looking into breastfeeding as the primary way to nourish their babies.
Dr. Andrew Balder, medical director at Baystate's Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, joined several advocates at Springfield City Hall Monday to raise the flag for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, held each August. He said there are many health benefits to breastfeeding.
"We have seen this year the precariousness of the supply of formula. That is not the reason to breastfeed, but it is yet another reason that breastfeeding works," he said. "(Breast milk) is the ideal food source for most children. The immune system benefits have been shown over and over again. It is better for digestion, less colic, less belly pain and less crying."
Ford said one reason working mothers may choose not to breastfeed is a lack of time and accessibility to a lactation room in their workplaces.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said after talking to Ford and other advocates, including Talia Gee, of the city's law department who was a new mom at the time, he understood the need for a space where mothers could feel comfortable lactating.
"They brought this to my attention and in turn we now have a lactation room in City Hall," Sarno said. "It's important for the health of a baby, but now more than ever with families not being able to get formula, breastfeeding is key to nurturing a little one."
Ford said she is working to make sure breastfeeding and lactation information is easy to come by for any mother who wants to try.
"I have a focus on equity and making sure services are available, and more importantly accessible, to everyone. Especially those who have be been marginalized and historically excluded," she said.