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Alexandria health leaders warn against parents making their own baby formula

Dr. Sarah Sprengeler, an OB/GYN at Alomere Health in Alexandria, who is the the OB department chairperson, said there is a pressure to stockpile formula and many families are nervous that they will not be able to keep their baby on the same formula consistently.

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This photo, taken May 13, 2022, shows nearly empty shelves at Target in Alexandria where baby formula is usually stocked. A sign encourages customers to check the stores website for availability.
Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA – New parents are becoming increasingly concerned they won’t be able to feed their babies because of the formula shortage that is sweeping the nation.

The shortage began after the Food and Drug Administration cited unsafe practices committed by Abbott Nutrition Laboratories, where baby formula products resulted in the deaths of two infants due to a rare bacterial illness. Since the FDA shut down production at the Abbott plant where the illness was traced back to, formula shortages have become all too common on store shelves.

On May 19, parents from across the state spoke with Walz Administration officials about their struggles to find baby formula for their infants and urged the state to take action to make more formula available.

Dr. Sarah Sprengeler, an OB/GYN at Alomere Health in Alexandria, who is the the OB department chairperson, said there is a pressure to stockpile formula and many families are nervous that they will not be able to keep their baby on the same formula consistently.

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Dr. Sarah Sprengeler

There has been a recipe for making formula circulating across social media sites, but Sprengeler stated it is not recommended for parents to make their own formula.

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“There is significant risk that there will be unsafe ratios of minerals and protein,” she said, adding, “The American Academy of Pediatrics does approve the use of cow’s milk to replace formula for babies older than 6 months of age.”

Ann Stehn, Horizon Public Health administrator, checked in with her registered dietitian and nursing staff who shared a few thoughts.

She said they, too, are encouraging people to not dilute or use homemade formula.

“This has been an incredibly stressful time for families using formula to feed their infants,” she said. “Horizon has registered dietitians and nurses that can help families sort out options and provide guidance on what formula or alternate formulas may be available and provide support and resources during this difficult time.”

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Ann Stehn

Breastfeeding help available

Breastfeeding is wonderful, Sprengeler said, but noted that unfortunately, it does not work for everyone.

“A mom can do everything right and still not be able to make enough milk to feed her baby and keep him or her healthy,” she said. “There are many reasons for this, like having previous breast surgery, being on medications that prevent breastfeeding from being safe or a baby who is unable to latch for medical reasons.”

About 83% of babies start out breastfeeding, she said, while about 56% continue at six months and 35% continue at one year.

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Sprengeler also said, “If you are a new mom and you are having trouble with breastfeeding, reach out to your clinic for a lactation consult.”

Lactation consultants have specialized training in proper lactation and will have tips and tricks to help new moms.

“Even if you need to supplement with formula, any breast milk you are able to give your baby is significant,” she said.

Exclusive
Baby formula is the latest product that has been critically hit in the supply chain shortage. The shortage is not only impacting Minnesota residents, but families on the national level that are connecting from all corners of the country to help each other find and receive any formula they can.

If there are pregnant women out there who are interested in breastfeeding, Sprengeler said they should ask their doctor or midwife about prenatal colostrum expression and a kit for collection. Alomere Health, she said, gives out colostrum collection kits when a woman is 37 weeks along.

Additionally, Alomere Health has a breast milk donation program where moms can donate their milk to a milk bank. From there, Sprengeler said it is processed and then sent out to moms or NICU facilities that may need it.

Sprengeler also shared some advice for employers:

“If you have an employee who is pumping breast milk at work, please offer your employee a clean and private place to pump, a place to store the milk and 20 minutes of time to express breast milk every three to four hours. Breastfeeding has never been so important to protect as it is now.”

Contact primary care provider for options

For parents who are struggling to find formula, Sprenegler said to contact either their primary care provider or public health to discuss available options.

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Stehn said that all types of WIC offered formula has been impacted ranging from basic formula to formula specifically designed to meet special health needs for infants.

Stehn added that Horizon’s staff are available to answer questions to discuss feeding options and they also encourage families to talk with their health care provider about feeding their infant during this shortage.

Horizon Public Health can be reached at 320-763-6018 and families can get more information about WIC at horizonpublichealth.org/services/children-and-families/wic/.

“I wish we had a magic stash of formula,” said Stehn. “There are not really any words for how hard this has been for families.”

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects lead and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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