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Formula shortage sparks growth in breastfeeding education

Posted at 4:21 PM, Sep 22, 2022

DENVER, Colo. — The baby formula shortage may have left the headlines, but it revealed the struggle millions of moms face every day to breastfeed successfully.

However, the crisis also fueled interest in breastfeeding support. Now, education programs are starting to pop up all over the country to give moms that support.

At the Metropolitan State University of Denver, a brand-new lactation consultant training certificate program just launched. It’s been years in the making.

The program is run in part by registered nurse and lactation counselor Amanda Ogden. Ogden has been helping moms breastfeed for years through her nonprofit the mama’hood.

“Breastfeeding is not intuitive. It's like if you read a book about swimming but have never seen swimming; it's not easy to do,” said Ogden.

She said more women than ever are interested in breastfeeding because of the formula shortage, but without the proper support, the majority of moms will find it difficult to breastfeed.

“We need to help families make this work right now, because right now, breastfeeding is the luxury of the educated and well-off. If you are poor and you have to be back at work by day 10 and your insurance doesn't send you a nice pump, then you're really set up to make it much harder,” said Ogden.

The CDC found that 60% of moms don’t breastfeed their babies for as long as they’d like to. That number goes up for mothers of color and lower-income moms. For many, it’s because they don’t have a lactation counselor or other supports to keep breastfeeding when problems come up.

“I was in tears like two days post-birth,” said mom of two, Donielle Dominguez.

Dominguez is a Lactation Certificate Program Coordinator at MSU Denver’s program, yet she still found herself in need of support to breastfeed.

“Being a registered dietitian and an instructor, I thought I knew everything I needed to know to breastfeed, and it was really hard,” said Dominguez.

“Moms do feel really lonely,” said Dr. Jennifer Bolton, a professor of nutrition at MSU Denver and the director of the Lactation Certificate Program.

Bolton said this training is even more crucial because the labor force of lactation consultants is aging and 90% white, which is not reflective of the diversity in the communities these consultants serve.

“It's a scary situation to be in, to not know how you're going to feed your baby. And there are plenty of people who can help, but we need to train more,” said Bolton.

Programs like MSU Denver’s are growing. Colleges in Georgia, Nebraska, Tennessee, Michigan and Pennsylvania all recently started lactation certification programs.

The impact of this support means all the difference to moms.

“I'm very confident that I would have probably struggled with postpartum depression pretty significantly if I wasn't able to breastfeed my baby,” said Dominguez.

“It really did a lot to take away a lot of the shame and like, discomfort that maybe I was feeling. You didn't have to do it alone. I thought it was really, really incredible,” said new mom Brianna Hammerman.

And these women know for some families, breastfeeding is just not an option, but these women hope that with more lactation support, more mothers will have the chance to try.