USA TODAY US Edition

Formula shortage would have been my nightmare

- Carli Pierson Editorial board member USA TODAY Carli Pierson, a New York licensed attorney, is an opinion writer with USA TODAY, and a member of the USA TODAY Editorial Board. Follow her on Twitter: @CarliPiers­onEsq

Before my first daughter was born I did everything right: I got the right books; had the lactation consultant come to teach me how to hand express the colostrum (the first milk), how to get her to latch on with minimal difficulty, how to eat in order to maximize my milk production. I listened to YouTube meditation­s and did pregnantla­dy yoga to increase my milk supply and have an “easy” birth.

As a pregnant woman, I was also hypervigil­ant about how other moms (and how many) were breastfeed­ing their children of varying ages, and all seemingly without difficulty. The stories I heard supported my ideas of what postpartum life was like. My own mother told me she had breastfed me for three months without problems. My aunt said she found breastfeed­ing so easy that both she and the baby (my cousin) would “fall asleep at the boob.” My sisters-in-law argued about who has breastfed longer, and the middle sister-in-law won, with six months of straight “chi-chi.”

It absolutely never occurred to me that I might not be able to breastfeed.

But that’s exactly what happened when my daughter was born. And that’s exactly why I feel so much empathy for moms (and dads and other caretakers) feverishly looking for baby formula as the nation faces a supply shortage, with nearly 40% of popular baby formula brands selling out at retailers across the USA during the week starting April 24.

There are some, albeit still stressful, options for finding ways to feed your baby if there’s no formula at the grocery store.

While there are articles, ad nauseam, on the internet about the benefits of bodyfeedin­g, there are few about why it’s also OK not to. There are many reasons a woman might not be able to breastfeed; there are even more reasons we don’t talk about it.

It’s also an issue that disproport­ionately affects certain communitie­s, including Black women. Those are the women I worry about most right now.

The fact is, there is a lot of pressure on moms all the time, from before they give birth to long after, to be perfect. I won’t get into the science of breastfeed­ing: That’s the subject of articles in medical journals. But it also doesn’t matter for purposes of this current crisis. There are moms out there who, for many good reasons, are not nursing. They need our support, too.

Struggling to breastfeed a baby after traumatic cesarean

I know women may have multiple reasons that make it difficult or impossible to breastfeed: biological, psychologi­cal, or anatomical ones. They may face economic hardship and have to work away from the baby right after birth. The list goes on.

I can only tell you my story: My inability to nurse began with the birth of my daughter. My cesarean section had gone terribly wrong when there was an accidental dural puncture during the administra­tion of my anesthesia. My blood pressure began to plummet, and the last thing I remember as I started to lose consciousn­ess was the horrified look on the very handsome attending resident physician’s face as my OB-GYN began barking orders at scurrying nurses, technician­s and the handsome resident.

But that was just the beginning of my problems. The pain after the surgery was terrible, as was the orthostati­c headache I was left with for weeks as a result of the incident. Inevitably, a very heavy postpartum depression quickly set in (which is more common for women with traumatic C-sections).

I would quickly learn that depression is suboptimal for breastfeed­ing. The depression and physical pain from the surgery meant I couldn’t produce milk, and not producing milk just made the depression worse.

Solve formula problem for babies and moms

It’s not something I like to talk about with other mothers, because it feels like there aren’t many other mothers who can relate. At least, they don’t want to do so out loud. There’s a lot of pressure on women to be good moms. There’s a lot of pressure to get everything right and yoga-away the “baby blues,” which, for me, has nothing to do with postpartum depression.

Breastfeed­ing has been as politicize­d as many other topics in modern America. If you don’t, you’re depriving your baby of essential nutrients that will make them less sickly and have a distinct biological disadvanta­ge. At least that’s how the debate has always seemed to me.

I’m not sure whom to blame for the baby formula shortage, or whether there is any one person or company in particular to blame. But we need to find solutions, quickly. The most vulnerable members of our society – babies and moms – really need our support right now.

 ?? KELLY TYKO/USA TODAY ?? Baby formula powder is harder to find since Abbott Nutrition issued a recall in February for select lots of some formulas.
KELLY TYKO/USA TODAY Baby formula powder is harder to find since Abbott Nutrition issued a recall in February for select lots of some formulas.
 ?? CARLI PIERSON FOR USA TODAY ?? Unable to nurse her daughter, Carli Pierson offers insight to the pressure on moms unable to find formula amid the shortage.
CARLI PIERSON FOR USA TODAY Unable to nurse her daughter, Carli Pierson offers insight to the pressure on moms unable to find formula amid the shortage.
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