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Baby formula woes cast ripple effect at CHKD breast milk bank

“We’re feeling the increased demand," director of The King’s Daughters Milk Bank at CHKD said.

NORFOLK, Va. — The baby formula shortage is making the day-to-day routine difficult for families across the country and right here in Hampton Roads.

Supply chain issues, a long manufacturing stoppage and recalls are cutting inventory in the U.S. by more than 43%.

Toure Martin of Hampton found baby formula as the best option for her 9-month-old. After some trial-and-error, little Flynn favored a certain kind. Recently, however, Martin and other parents nationwide struggle to find any formula online or in-store. 

"It's bare. There's nothing," said Martin. “It’s a little nerve-wracking to be like, ‘Wait, is he going to handle whatever formula I have to switch to next, based on what we can find?’”

Thanks to the help from her relatives scattered across the country, a shipment from Indiana should arrive in the next few days.

"We'll do anything we can. We just need a box, because we need one for home, and we need one for daycare," said Martin. 

As the shortage persists, experts continue to advise against diluting formula or switching to things like Pedialyte or juice.

"And you definitely don't want to make homemade formula. It's lacking key nutrients for the proper growth and development of an infant. So, if you find yourself in a place that you have no feeding option, you should immediately contact your pediatrician," said Ashlynn Baker, director of The King's Daughters Milk Bank at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters (CHKD).

"Our mission is to provide pasteurized human donor milk to high-risk and critically ill infants," said Baker. "For premature babies, human milk is the difference between surviving and thriving.”

The milk bank is a nonprofit assisting the sickest of babies at 40 hospitals up and down the East Coast. Baker estimated the demand is up by 15% to 20% compared to this time last year. 

"In lieu of the babies who would typically be formula fed in the hospital, the hospitals are obtaining additional donor milk to treat those babies while they are hospitalized," she added. 

Donors are always needed, but Baker said their help is vital now more than ever.

Those interested in beginning the screening process can call 757-668-MILK or email KDmilkbank@chkd.org for more information.

Abbott, which stopped production at a key factory in February, is still shut down. It could take 10 weeks to get their products back in stores, according to the company.

Meanwhile, federal officials are now investigating the shortages, attempting to import more supplies and cracking down on price gouging.

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