As formula shortage continues, Tri-Cities lactation counselor supports families

KENNEWICK, Wash. — “Everyone, just breastfeed! Well, we needed that support a long time ago,” Susan Brady, a Lactation Counselor in the Tri-Cities said.

It’s the unsolicited advice moms are getting as store shelves, that should be stocked with baby formula, are empty.

Even actress Bette Midler elicited an outcry from a Tweet published on May 12th stating, ‘ TRY BREASTFEEDING! It’s free and on demand.’

Parents, had some thoughts – because breastfeeding is easier said than done.

“When a woman says ‘I just couldn’t breastfeed,’ she always says ‘I couldn’t,’ and what I hear is her saying ‘no one was there for me,'” Brady, who owns Nourish Tri-Cities said, “we should be all hands on deck to support her, and that is not how its happened.”

Brady provides prenatal education to expecting families, as well as breastfeeding advice, troubleshooting and support as a part of her business, Nourish Tri-Cities. She said the formula shortage is only highlighting the disparities that exist when a mother desires to breastfeed her child. She added, there’s also an array of reasons families may choose formula over breastfeeding such as trauma, returning to work, or pain while breastfeeding.

“So, a lot of us feel like we wanted to start breastfeeding and we may have gotten a really rocky start even at the hospital and we maybe got a little help or we didn’t get much help at all so then by the time you get home and things are falling apart and you’ve just got to feed your baby — and so that is often why families are turning to formula,” Brady explained.

There’s also lack of resources within a woman’s community or support from family and friends.

Susan said she wants families to know they have options, like donated milk from another mom.

“I just started running out of freezer space,” that was one of the many reasons Pasco mother and wife Ashley Carpenter started donating her breastmilk.

Carpenter, a mother to three boys, said she’s fortunate to help other families.

“I, you know, wanted to help other moms out and just donate to whoever needed it, feels good to help another baby in need who needs something,” she said.

On top of being a wife, mother and employee at LULU Craft Bar and Kitchen, Ashley cranks up the breast pump, out of the goodness of her heart.

“I’d be crying everyday, worrying about if my baby’s getting enough food or if he’s healthy it’d just be scary to be in those kinds of shoes so I’m very thankful that I’m able to produce enough for him and help other moms in need as well,” Ashley said she couldn’t help but empathize with families who can’t find formula.

Ashley said she’s a part of many statewide milk sharing groups of Facebook, like Human Milk for Human Babies Washington or Eats on Feets Washington.

She also gets connected to people like the Murphy’s, by word of mouth.

“I can’t even fully express my gratitude because he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the generosity of these moms; they’re giving of their personal bounty and literally the fruit of their loom and it’s kept him fed healthy and strong since day one,” Deidra Murphy, mother to five-month-old Declan, said.

Declan was adopted by Deidra and her husband Chris, last fall.

She said before he was even born, she started researching how to find donated milk to feed him.

“I just started putting my feelers out there connecting with moms all across the state,” Deidra said.

Soon, the Kennewick mother had a freezer full of milk, thanks to the kindness of mothers across Washington.

“It’s just been a huge blessing in our life,” she said.

To date, Deidra reaches out to donor moms often to ensure her freezer is stocked.

In return, she provides her donors with milk storage supplies, snacks or milk boosting supplements.

Susan said milk sharing does come with it’s fair share of risks but there are some guidelines families can follow to ensure the donation process is smooth and safe.

“It’s always up to the family to do their own screening, and make sure they feel comfortable with it, and if you feel uncomfortable donating your milk to someone, or receiving milk from someone, it’s not the right fit,” Brady advised.

Susan said women with excess milk or, who need milk, can go on Human Milk for Human Babies Washington or Eats on Feets Washington.

There’s also a La Leche League in the Tri-Cities for women seeking support.

WIC Washington has also announced they will help families locate the formula they need, or expand what people on the programs can use their benefits on when it comes to baby formula.

The Federal Government has said help is on the way for families who rely on formula; they’re looking to reach out to manufacturers overseas, who have stringent approval guidelines.

For families struggling to get through this tough time, Susan has some advice.

“You’re doing awesome, it doesn’t matter how we feed our babies, we’re all doing the very best we can it wasn’t that you did anything wrong, or you’re not doing anything wrong — I would say collectively, we’re here to support you and those people saying mean things, plug your ears, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

Susan can be reach on Facebook at Nourish Tri-Cities.