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Nevada is one of the worst states for the baby formula shortage, but there's help

Associated Press

The baby formula shortage in Las Vegas appears to be worse than anywhere else in the country.

Las Vegas is number one for formula shortages, according to Bloomberg, with the state ranking pretty high on several other rankings.

But there is some help.

Meredith Pollaro is with Nourish Nevada. She joined us from Reno, where she said they’re also seeing the effects of the formula shortage and very low to no products on shelves. She said they’re advising parents to look at products that are similar to ones they’ve been using if they can’t find their particular formula. 

Online, families are trading old at-home recipes, which Pollaro said they aren’t recommending at this time because of the risks of the ingredients. 

​​”We also recommend boiling the water when preparing formula, letting it cool for five minutes, and then adding in your powder,” she said. “You know, one thing that I always try to remind parents is using their formula and not having much waste.“ 

While many prepare formula in small batches and toss out what the baby doesn’t drink, they said parents can make a 24 hour batch, store it in the refrigerator and pour what’s needed at feeding time. 

“That's going to reduce your waste and allow you to conserve what you have,” she said.

She didn’t recommend rationing out formula, such as using one scoop per bottle when the formula recommends two.

“No, because that would give your baby a lot more free water than your body needs. And it can be dangerous and cause other health issues requiring hospitalization.”

Skip cow’s milk until the baby is about a year old, she said, then use full fat milk or milk alternatives until the child is around 2. Breast milk is considered a full fat milk.

She said parents in Reno are seeking out alternative formulas online. Others are driving store to store to find formula. 

The baby formula shortage started with supply chain issues from the pandemic sometime last year, but it got worse in February, when an Abbott nutrition factory in Michigan was shut down after its product was recalled. 

That plant makes much of the nation's baby formula and cronobacter bacteria was found there. 

The FDA is trying to determine if the deaths of two infants resulted from contaminated formula possibly made at that plant. Market experts believe it will take six to eight weeks before formula produced in that plant makes it to supermarkets. Meanwhile, a retail tracker said Nevada’s stock rate of baby formula is the lowest in the country.

Nourish Nevada provides lactation and feeding services for babies in Northern Nevada. Their organization helps moms who breastfeed and they donate milk to families in need, as they’re a milk collection site for the San Jose Milk Bank in California, the closest milk bank.

They take milk from moms who make extra milk, or are pumping and their babies aren’t consuming it all. Nourish Nevada is the one who processes, pasteurizes and ships the donations. They’re mostly sent to NICUs. 

In communities, many families are doing milk sharing if they can’t reach a milk bank. 

Pollaro said to not be afraid to ask personal questions from your milk donor. 

“I really encourage parents that are getting donor milk to ask the questions. Don't be nervous or afraid. You know, ask the health questions: Have they had a health screening for HIV or hepatitis syphilis? Hepatitis C? What is their drug and drinking history?” she said. “And I do not advise parents to purchase donor milk from another family. That's where we worry about milk being diluted or not being breast milk, being cow milk.”

One of the biggest global issues of breastfeeding, she said, is prenatal education. She said parents can learn about breastfeeding ahead of time and make plans for milk harvesting. 

But not all moms can breastfeed, she notes. Medical histories can make milk production or the process of breastfeeding difficult. 

“One thing I wish that we could message more is that we don't need to make 100%,” she said. “So if we can work with a mom to make as much milk as her body, possibly, and healthily can make, and then we use some math to determine what other milk she needs, whether that's donor milk, or formula to make up the difference. But any amount of human milk or breast milk from mom is healthy for the child or baby.”


Meredith Pollaro, occupational therapist and lactation consultant, Nourish Nevada

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Kristen Kidman is a former senior producer at KNPR’s State of Nevada and is proud to be from Las Vegas.