Higher breastfeeding percentages reduce formula shortages in the Yampa Valley | SteamboatToday.com

Higher breastfeeding percentages reduce formula shortages in the Yampa Valley

Amidst the ongoing national shortage of some varieties of infant formula, families in the Yampa Valley are faring better than in other regions.

Local nurses say the higher percentage of new moms in the valley who prioritize breastfeeding their babies, as well as the community acceptance and support for breastfeeding are easing formula shortages.

Shelves of powdered baby formula at local grocery and drug stores do have some empty slots, most noticeably for the brand Similac. Abbot Laboratories, which makes the formula, stopped production at a plant in February.

Specialty formulas for babies on limited diets are harder to find, and Northwest Colorado Health — which manages the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, in Routt and Moffat counties — has been ordering specialized formulas.

“We do have a few clients on specialty formulas that have been affected by the recall, and staff are ordering formula for these families monthly through the state WIC office,” said Arin Daigneau, prevention services director at Northwest Colorado Health. “Our WIC staff is monitoring the stores, and there does seem to be less of some formulas on the shelves, yet not an overall formula shortage.”

Registered Nurse Liz Graham, a lactation consultant at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said the recommended nutrition for infants up to 6 months old is ideally mom’s breast milk, followed by infant formula or perhaps donated breast milk. YVMC participates in the Mothers’ Milk Bank donation program based in Arvada.

The Birth Center at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center keeps frozen, donated breast milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank on hand in case a newborn needs supplemented supply.
UCHealth/Courtesy photo

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for one year or longer.

Registered Nurse Maggie Fess, YVMC Birth Center nurse manager, said almost 83% of moms exclusively feed breast milk during their newborns’ entire hospitalization. This includes breast milk directly from a mom, breast milk pumped by the mom and fed via bottle, and donor breast milk fed via bottle.

YVMC is the leader in the percentage of breastfeeding moms compared to the nine area UCHealth hospitals with birth centers, Fess said.

“We are very fortunate to have a community that is very invested in breastfeeding,” Graham said, noting that studies show participation levels are buoyed by higher levels of education and financial stability. “I have people from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds who are interested in making breastfeeding work.”

Graham said educating pregnant women, support of new moms with breastfeeding advice and assistance from families, employers and co-workers are key to strong breastfeeding participation in the valley. She pointed out that Colorado laws provide protections for breastfeeding moms, including the legal right to breastfed or pump in public. Employers must provide break time and private space that is not a toilet stall for moms to express breast milk. More information is available online through the Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition.

The lactation consultant said one of the most valuable measures is when a co-worker offers to cover for a new mom to take a break and pump breast milk.

“Although we can educate about the value and benefits of breastfeeding and encourage people, unless we are providing time and support to do that, it’s lip service unless we are taking steps to make those actions doable,” Graham said.

All new moms at the UCHealth Birth Center have the opportunity to meet with a lactation consultant following delivery and can schedule outpatient appointments.

Graham oversees The Lactation Club, or TLC, a free drop-in support group from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. Wednesdays at the hospital. Online registration is requested.

Lactation Consultant Liz Graham holds 5-week-old Jordan, who is drinking her mother’s pumped breast milk.
UCHealth/Courtesy photo

The lactation consultant said a common question from moms is if they will be able to make enough milk for their babies. Moms’ bodies need to stay healthy in order to produce milk and that includes regular expressing of milk, plenty of sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, and taking opportunities to engage in relaxing activities.

The nurses reminded moms to reach out to their baby’s pediatrician with questions if a change in formula may be needed due to lower than normal supplies. Changing formula may be irritating to babies but is doable. They warn families should not dilute formula with additional water, not make homemade baby formula and not feed animal milk to infants.

“One way we can elevate concerns about the limited formula supply right now is to do our best to support and educate moms about breastfeeding and give opportunities to ask questions,” Graham said. “That helps build a culture of support and knowledge about how to make breastfeeding successful.”

With some options currently not available, Safeway in Steamboat Springs is asking customers to voluntarily limit purchase of baby formula to five items, shown on May 19.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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