May 13, 2022

The nationwide formula shortage is fueling a spike in demand at breast milk banks


Donated breast milk from The Milk Bank in February 2022.  - Darian Benson/WFYI

Donated breast milk from The Milk Bank in February 2022.

Darian Benson/WFYI

The nationwide shortage of baby formula is also impacting Hoosier families.

More than 40 percent of retailers across the country reported being out of formula stock during the first week of May, according to Datasembly, a firm that collects data from grocery stores and other retailers.

The Milk Bank is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that provides donated breast milk to babies in the neonatal intensive care unit and babies with medical needs who benefit from human milk. Advancement Director Jenna Streit said the organization is seeing an increase in requests from families desperate to feed their babies.

“We're hearing from across the region, across the country, that families are searching, spending a lot of time driving around and trying to find formula options that just aren't in stock,” Streit said. “They’re left without a lot of options.”

Streit said The Milk Bank can be one part of the solution, but the nonprofit has to be careful about how much milk it dispenses. The Milk Bank prioritizes donations to NICU babies.

“The Milk Bank does not have an unlimited supply of milk and we have a really small donor population as well,” Streit said. “There needs to be milk banks, there needs to be safe human milk and there needs to be formula available.”

The Milk Bank is trying to increase donors to meet demand. Streit said if donating milk is not an option, The Milk Bank is running a campaign called “Give An Ounce” to reduce the processing fee for donated milk — a barrier for some families.

“We're asking folks to donate $4.50, which is equal to our processing fee,” Streit said. “That would be a great way for people to get involved.”

Those interested in donating milk or funds should visit TheMilkBank.org

Contact reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @helloimdarian.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said "The Milk Bank is running a campaign called 'Give Outs.'" That was incorrect. It is "Give An Ounce."

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