Recently, baby formula has been extremely difficult to find. While this has been an issue since May, the problem likely won’t be solved in the near future: in fact, some sources say it is only going to get worse. In short, the United States simply does not have enough supply for the demands of the population, and this problem is only heightened by the fact that there are only three manufacturers of baby formula in the US, along with stringent FDA regulations and company monopolies on low-income supply in each state.
So, where does that leave parents who cannot breastfeed their children? While breastfeeding is protective against breast cancer, for those who are undergoing or who have already undergone breast cancer treatment and can no longer breastfeed, the ongoing formula shortage is another issue to worry about during an already stressful time. In order to help combat this, we have a selection of articles that more fully explain the shortage, what it’s like to be a new parent while dealing with breast cancer, and some resources that might be able to help.
This comprehensive breakdown of the formula shortage from Living Beyond Breast Cancer has a timeline of how the crisis began, why it’s happening, and how mothers with breast cancer are responding. Dr. Helen Coons, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a member of the advisory board at LBBC, notes that “There is inordinate pressure to breastfeed in the United States, and some women are treated as ‘lesser’ or feel criticized and marginalized for using formula”, and these sentiments seem to be compounded by the lack of formula availability. This is especially an issue for low-income families who may not have as much access to formula sources. If you’re experiencing difficulty getting access to formula, LBBC recommends reaching out to your pediatrician, milk banks or milk sharing groups, and getting support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Read More
Breast milk banks are one of the main alternative sources of nourishment for babies that cannot be breastfed, and with formula being difficult to get, banks are becoming increasingly busy with the demand for milk. While they try to prioritize premature or medically fragile infants, they are also supplying milk for full-term or healthy children as well. Parents are reaching out in the hopes that the banks will be able to help solve some of the worries being created when trying to feed their child, and the banks are doing everything they can to support them. Read More
This informational resource has statistics on how breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, but also how breastfeeding may complicate cancer diagnosis and/or treatment. Chemotherapy often delays breastfeeding, as the treatments could potentially be passed to the baby in breastmilk. Additionally, breast cancer treatments may also limit breast milk production, leaving the parents more dependent on formula or donor milk to feed their child. Read More
Milk Banks and Other Resources
Milk banks are a great way for those who are able to donate their excess milk so that children who are in need of it can benefit. In the U.S. and in Canada, the Human Milk Banking Association of America has 31 locations where parents can give or request milk.
Especially for those battling breast cancer while pregnant, Hope for Two is a support website that connects women with another facing the same type of cancer. They have informational content and stories from other women, and aim to provide a sense of community and understanding during a difficult time.
We hope that these resources will be able to add some context to the situation, or provide some much needed information to those struggling. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant and would like to share your story, we’d love to hear about it! You can see some other breast cancer stories from our readers here.
And for those looking for additional support, try downloading the SurvivingBreastCancer.org app, where we have community discussion boards and private groups so that you can connect with others in a similar situation and get peer to peer support.