3. Tracking shot of mother Stephanie Weller arriving to pick up donor milk
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Stephanie Weller, mother:
"We were able to come here and get as many bottles as we needed to keep her fed and keep her growing. This past week when we called there just wasn't any available. So it's been pretty scary to to realize that you might not be able to feed your baby right. So, we're probably going to try and switch and get some formula too when that one that's out. But we just don't know what to do."
5. Rebecca Heinrich, Director of Mothers' Milk Bank, during laboratory tests
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Matt Long, parent:
"My child survives off of milk. That's a pretty big deal. And we got to figure out, you know, the baby doesn't understand shortages. She just knows she's hungry. And she hasn't eaten in two hours, in three areas, in four hours. And she'll let you know that she hasn't eaten."
7. Various of Heinrich in lab
8. Mid of Weller being handed her donor milk supplies
"There's been a real strong interest in sort of reaching out to milk banks. I think people are looking across the landscape of infant nutrition options. And and so we're certainly hearing from more people on both sides."
"We're hearing from moms who want to be part of the solution to this crisis and are interested in donating the excess milk that they have. So we're really pleased to see that response. And then we're also hearing from parents who are worried, who are looking for new strategies for feeding their babies."
The U.S. baby formula shortage has sparked a surge of interest at milk banks around the U.S. with some mothers offering to donate breast milk and desperate parents calling to see if it’s a solution to keep their babies fed.
It’s a pathway that won’t work for every formula-fed baby, especially those with special dietary needs, and it comes with challenges because the country's dozens of nonprofit milk banks prioritize feeding medically fragile infants.
The organizations collect milk from mothers and process it, including through pasteurization, then work with hospitals to distribute it.
The shortage stemmed from a safety recall and supply disruptions and has captured national attention with panicked parents looking to swap and buy formula online and President Joe Biden urging manufacturers to increase production and discussing with retailers how they could restock shelves to meet regional disparities.
Biden's administration also said Friday that formula maker Abbott Laboratories committed to give rebates through August for a food stamp-like program that helps women, infants and children called WIC.
At the Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, based in Newton, Massachusetts, interest in donating and receiving milk because of the shortage has spiked.
Typically, the milk bank gets about 30-50 calls a month from people looking to donate.
On Thursday alone, 35 calls came in from potential donors, said Deborah Youngblood, the bank’s executive director.
“We're hearing from moms who want to be part of the solution to this crisis and are interested in donating the excess milk that they have. So we're really pleased to see that response. And then we're also hearing from parents who are worried, who are looking for new strategies for feeding their babies." she said.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America, an accrediting organization for nonprofit milk banks, is seeing a “major increase” in demand, according to Lindsay Groff, the group's executive director.
She estimates inquiries from parents seeking to fill the formula gap are up 20% in recent days.
On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to the head of Abbott Laboratories expressing what he called his “grave concern regarding the accessibility of safe infant formula,” noting Abbott holds infant formula contracts in the federal WIC program.
Vilsack asked that Abbott continue a program that provides rebates for alternative products including formula for competitive brands, which it had been doing on a month-to-month basis.
The White House said Friday Abbott committed to the rebates through the end of August.
The Biden administration said it's working with states to make it easier for WIC recipients to buy different sizes of formula that their benefits might not currently cover.
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