Black mothers and families in urban cores are suffering from a shortage of formula

Laurie Alexander of West Price Hill is researching how to get formula outside the United States.

She is three months pregnant and, although she has breastfed her three babies, she has always had to supplement with formula. The baby formula shortage worries him now, even though his delivery date is six months away and federal officials say help is on the way.

“It’s very scary,” Alexander said. “I’m looking at the UK and Canada. I tried to source it early.”

The nationwide shortage has parents of babies in need worried. In the Cincinnati area, nonprofits that help low-income mothers and women of color say the problem is exacerbated for their clients, who suffer the most from ever-increasing costs with inflation and often due to lack of transportation.

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Alexander said the costs of infant formula, including shipping and delivery, are difficult to manage, but she is trying to get boxes bit by bit. She and her husband both work and struggle with rising food prices for their family. Her boys are 5, 8 and 6 years old. Her husband has three children aged 16, 14 and 11, and the cost of feeding the family has skyrocketed in recent months. Even basic necessities, such as eggs, bread and milk, are difficult to maintain, she said, and the family is not eligible for federal assistance.

Empty shelves surround a sign explaining to customers why they are limited to four infant formulas per visit to Kroger.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “It all comes out of pocket.”

Groups that help moms and kids say clients’ health is at risk

Santa Maria Community Services President and CEO H. A. Musser, Jr. said the organization’s employees have seen the formula shortage affect the families it serves in Cincinnati’s Price Hill neighborhoods. .

“It’s especially difficult for families living in poverty and those facing language barriers. We don’t yet know the health and economic consequences they might face if the shortage persists,” Musser said. The association helps families achieve their educational, financial and health goals. Last year, 43% of its customers were Hispanic or Latino.

Nutrition experts note the disparity between women of color and those with lower incomes.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the shortage of infant formula is having a disproportionate impact on low-income women, women of color and women in our urban and rural areas compared to suburban areas,” Kate said. Bauer, associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public. Health said in a May 18 Michigan Public Health News Center article.

Low-income women often live paycheck to paycheck, rely on public benefits to buy formula, and wouldn’t have had the financial resources to stock up on formula “months ago , when they saw it coming,” she said.

“It’s a huge, huge problem,” said Sophia Bosse, registered dietitian and certified lactation consultant at Cradle Cincinnati Connections, a Cradle Cincinnati support that provides resources and education to pregnant women and new moms around the world. goal of reducing infant mortality. “We certainly have quite a few families who are struggling to not only find their baby’s formula, but another equivalent formula.”

Bosse said many customers receive an additional nutritional benefit through the WIC, Women, Infants and Children program, which distributes about half of the infant formula in the United States. But that doesn’t guarantee enough formula for their babies.

WIC often comes with guidelines on what brand and how much formula a mom can buy at a time.

The program gives families vouchers to buy formula, said Janelle McClain, executive director of the Cincinnati-based nonprofit Breastfeeding Outreach for Our Beautiful Sisters. If formula is not available, mothers may have to use their usual food assistance card to buy formula from another store, compounding the problems of buying other groceries for their family, she said.

There may be some relief coming: On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health said it had requested waivers from the federal government to give low-income mothers more choice when choosing formula.

“There is no formula”

Sister Patricia Cruise, president and CEO of the Healthy Moms and Babes Outreach Ministry, said help couldn’t come soon enough.

“It’s a very serious, very serious problem. It’s at a critical point,” she said. “There is no formula.”

The ministry serves moms and babies in 18 neighborhoods in Cincinnati’s urban core. Most are black women and their babies, but the organization has seen a surge in recent years of Latino customers, Cruise said. In total, Healthy Moms and Babes serves approximately 2,000 babies and their mothers per year. It includes a van service that brings basic necessities, like diapers and pregnancy tests, menstrual products and referrals for help, to each neighborhood so moms don’t have to worry about fees. driving or transportation.

Most customers follow the Healthy Moms and Babes Facebook group for tips and posts about van stops, Cruise said, so the group shared bulletins from U.S. Health and Human Services about what’s going on. it must be done – or not done – while the shortage of preparations occurs.

Breastfeeding awareness group sees increase in clientele

Breastfeeding awareness for our beautiful sisters has seen an increase in customers wanting to learn how to best breastfeed since the baby formula shortage began, McClain said.

The organization helps pregnant women with breastfeeding education and support and stays with them after their baby is born. About 97% of its clients are African American women, records show, and about 90% are eligible for government assistance.

Last month, a woman who had completed a breastfeeding education session told the other members of the group that she was planning to breastfeed due to issues with reminders and formula shortages.

Shawn Graves of Anderson Township breastfeeds her son, Timothy, in Ault Park in April 2021. She is relieved that she chose to breastfeed for his health, but also because she has heard of the struggle of parents seeking formula milk.

Breastfeeding Outreach for Our Beautiful Sisters partners with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Cradle Cincinnati.

Shawn Graves of Anderson Township became a client when she was pregnant more than two years ago and still occasionally breastfeeds her child. She’s relieved she was able to breastfeed, said she always planned to, but worries about Facebook friends jostling for formula.

“I don’t think infant formula should even cost! Everyone has to eat,” she said. “I wanted to try to jump in and give if I could, but I don’t think I have enough (breast milk).”

Giving breast milk, infant formula

The Ohio Health Mothers’ Milk Bank in Columbus hasn’t seen an increase in requests for breast milk, but it has seen more people wanting to donate, spokeswoman Katie Logan said. Most of the bank’s milk goes to infant hospitals in neonatal intensive care units, she said, and a small part goes to parents who need it.

To receive the milk, parents must have a prescription from their pediatrician, Logan said. She recommended parents concerned about formula shortages call their pediatrician for advice. If advised to try donor milk, they can call OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank at 614-566-0630 to begin the process.

To donate, call the bank at the same number or email [email protected] Cincinnati Children’s directs donors to the Breastmilk Donation Program from its website.

Cruise said Healthy Moms and Babes occasionally gets a small donation of formula, but needs to be careful about expiration dates. She encouraged those who want to donate formula to contact Healthy Moms and Babes at 513-591-5600.

“If there is access to formula,” she said, “we have the ability, with our mobile home and our cars, to get it directly to our babies who need formula right away.”

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