INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis nonprofit that provides human milk to babies throughout the Midwest is seeing a growth in demand during the pandemic.
“On a really good day we can get five cycles through and that's usually around 130 or 140 bottles per cycle, so we are looking at 7-800 bottles," Brock Badgley, lab specialist, said.
The Milk Bank provides services to nearly 70 NICUs in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. Badgley separates the milk into bottles so they can be shipped out to newborns in need.
“There have been a couple of days where we had to slow it down a bit to actually have a chance to receive milk in because we have gone through all that we have had here,” Badgley had.
It’s a process that has seen a growth in demand since the start of the pandemic.
“From 2019 until now, we have seen about a 40% increase in the demand for human milk,” Jenna Streit, the Advancement Director for The Milk Bank, said.
As the demand grows, so does the need for donors. The Milk Bank saw a dip in the the amount of donors last fall and currently need an additional 84 donors a month.
“We are trying to be preventative by getting the word out that the need is right now,” Streit said.
Natalie Derrickson became a donor this past winter after the birth of her second child.
“When were finishing our breastfeeding experience, I wanted to try to extend it as much as I could and see if I could donate because I felt like the mission was really important,” Derrickson said. “I knew that my window of opportunity to give this type of gift was really small, so I got creative so I could do that."
Natalie says the process of donating breast milk was easy. She was able to make one bulk donation.
“I was able to accumulate a little over 200 ounces which was quite a feat for me because the entire experience I was only able to supply him with maybe a couple extra days beyond daily need,” Derrickson said.
The need for infant formula is also impacting families across Central Indiana.
Riley Hospital for Children dietitian Kenzie Clifford says her clinic is seeing an infant formula shortage firsthand among patients whether they get formula from store shelves or through programs like WIC.
Clifford says healthcare workers like to keep babies on one type of formula as long as it is going well, but with the shortage she knows sometimes substitutions are having to be made.
"It's definitely a stressful and overwhelming time for parents and can cause some panic, so if you feel stressed or panic or unsure of what to do, always reach out to your pediatrician and see if they have a recommendation," Clifford said. "In the past, there has been things like this happen from time to time with certain formulas, but it seems to be an issue right now with several formulas and several formula brands and companies."
She suggests calling around to different stores to check their stock, looking at Amazon and other online retailers or reaching out to formula companies for samples.
"I know that all three of those options may fail during this time with the shortage. Switching to a new formula can be done. If your child is on a standard term infant formula, they can probably tolerate any other standard term infant formula," Clifford said.
Signs of intolerance to look out for when changing formula include:
- Changes to normal feeding patterns
- Increased spit up
- Drastic change in stool
- Overall comfortableness during feeds
- Baby not finishing the amount they used to
Clifford encourages parents and caregivers to talk to pediatricians if they notice any of these signs or have questions.
Doctors do not recommend giving children expired formula due to the risk associated with it. Mixing and matching formula is also not recommended.
"It can be confusing and cause changes to feeding patterns for the child. If you do switch to a new formula, we recommend introducing it slowly if you can - kind of weaning off of the previous one and getting onto the new one over a week and looking out for any signs of intolerance," Clifford said.
Clifford says while it is a rational thought for parents and caregivers to switch to whole milk or toddler formula, but it's important for babies to stay on infant formula because it uniquely designed to meet their needs.