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Misinformation Surrounding Baby Formula Shortage Puts Mothers at Risk of Preterm Labor

June 10, 2022

The baby formula shortage impacting the country has caused a tremendous amount of distress for families. Fortunately, those families have finally received some good news – one of the largest plants in the country announced it is restarting formula production. However, it could be weeks before we start seeing relief. As all of that is ongoing, there are new concerns about misinformation that’s been circulating online and on social media – encouraging mothers to express their breast milk while they’re still pregnant so they have a supply before the baby arrives. “This goes by many names – colostrum harvesting, antenatal breast milk expression or prenatal pumping,” said Christine Baumgart, lactation consultant at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain. “It sounds like a good idea, but there are real risks associated with this type of practice.” Baumgart explains that in order for a mother to produce breast milk, their body produces a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is the same hormone that causes a woman’s uterus to contract during labor, which increases the risk of preterm delivery. Using a breast pump, rather than hand expressing breast milk, raises the risk even higher. “It’s really important that if you are considering expressing your breast milk that you wait until your baby is full term or you’re more than 37 weeks pregnant. If a baby is born too early, there is a real risk that the baby could end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for an extended period of time, which we want to avoid at all costs,” said Baumgart. Expecting mothers are encouraged to consult with their obstetrician if they are considering expressing breast milk before they give birth. Their doctor can advise on safe practices for the mother and baby. “The Connecticut Department of Public Health has put together several resources to help families find formula. You can call 211 for information. You can also reach out to a board-certified lactation consultant through Hartford HealthCare. We can’t stress enough that mothers and families should be seeking advice from professionals and not going by what they read online,” said Baumgart.