Readiness shortage prompts Iowa parents to explore other options

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A University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital project is a beacon as the country faces a shortage of infant formula.

Grace Smith

Alexandra looks at empty shelves where formula milk normally sits at a grocery store in Iowa City on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. “The world shouldn’t work like this,” Alexandra said.


The nationwide shortage of infant formula has prompted families in Iowa to find other ways to feed their babies.

This crisis affected families throughout May, leading to more than 40% of infant formula brands in stores being out of stock.

Alexandra Frost, an assistant teacher at the Lionheart Early Learning Center and a mother whose child was affected by the shortage of infant formula, said that at the start of the shortage she was still able to find formula for her son in the stores.

“Then it got worse and worse and every time you went to the store it was like, okay, this one doesn’t have a formula and then you’d have to move on to the next and the next and the next,” Frost said. “Eventually it got to the point where none of the stores had any of the special formulas my son needed.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services advises families to seek safe alternatives to deal with the effects of the shortage, including buying formulas from other countries or talking to pediatricians about alternatives.

Frost’s son has stomach issues and due to the shortage she had to change her son’s formula five times which caused him to lose weight and worsened his stomach issues including vomiting .

A solution to the shortage presented by the Department of Social Services uses breast milk as an alternative. Frost attempted to feed her son by breastfeeding him but could not find enough to feed him.

“I tried to start pumping again but my milk supply wasn’t coming back. So we kept trying to change and we basically had to use whatever we could find and it was making him really sick,” Frost said. “…it was very hard.”

The Breastmilk Bank at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa is an organization that collects, stores, and distributes breastmilk to babies who need it.

Jean Drulis, director and co-founder of Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily that the bank had distributed more milk in May than any other month in 2022.

“We are seeing an increase in milk donors who mention formula shortages and their desire to help.” Drulis wrote. “We always need more donors and therefore appreciate their goodwill.”

All milk donated to Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa is pasteurized and tested for bacteria and is an accredited milk bank of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Vickie Brandenburg, owner of the Lionheart Early Learning Center, said breast milk is best for feeding a baby, but understands it’s not always an option for everyone or there’s a preference for milk mothered.

“I personally say, you know, a fed baby is what’s important, whether it’s breast milk or formula doesn’t matter. They just need to be a fed baby,” he said. said Brandenburg.

The Lionheart Early Learning Center hasn’t been much affected by the formula shortage as the majority of their children are breastfed, but is working to help Frost and her family try to find alternatives to formula.

“If they received emails from [the Department of Human Services], they were reaching out to let us know everything they heard that they were passing on to try and help,” Frost said. “Even as a daycare, there was not much anyone could do because the formula just wasn’t being produced.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health said parents shouldn’t use homemade alternatives that don’t contain minerals and vitamins. And the US Food and Drug Administration issued a press release highlighting its efforts to address the shortage.

“Babies need to be fed. So if they can’t get a formula, there must be another option. Babies can’t go hungry,” Frost said.

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