“It’s scary for families, wondering if you’re going to be able to feed your baby or not,” executive director Brenda Collins said. “We want to ease that stress and that burden as much as we can.”
The only accredited milk bank serving Illinois and Wisconsin has a dispensary in Madison located at the Hoey Apothecary on Monona Drive.
While families should always check first with their pediatricians before changing their baby’s diets, MMB program manager Susan Urbanski says human milk is often a very appropriate option for families looking to feed their babies, particularly those unable to digest other traditional formulas.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in outpatient demand, particularly for those babies who can’t digest regular formulas,” Urbanski said of their milk, which is pasteurized and prepared under industry standards after its collection from donors. “So if they were taking a specialty formula and that is now difficult to find, they might not have any other choices.”
The milk bank serves clinics and hospitals across Illinois and Wisconsin, but also serves individuals for both short term and long term needs. People needing milk immediately can get up to forty ounces, or ten bottles, without a prescription at the Madison-based dispensary. For long-term service, families should reach out directly to MMB, along with a prescription from their pediatrician.
One catch is that without insurance or discounts, it can be a pricy option at $20 a bottle at the Madison dispensary or $4.50/ounce when ordering from the WGL bank directly. However, for long term clients the organization offers discounts and works directly with families to lower costs–relying on its charity program to fill the gaps.
Historically, they’ve received grant funds from the Wisconsin Association of Lactation Consultants to provide charity care for Wisconsin families, because the state does not have mandatory insurance coverage for donor milk.
“Right now, we have a fantastic supply of donor milk because our donors answered the call. Earlier this year we were experiencing a little bit of a shortage with our milk supply, but our donors are absolutely fantastic,” Urbanski said. “We are able to supply all the milk that’s needed for all the demand that we’re seeing.”
United Way 211 Line
In 2022, United Way 211 has handled over 750 food pantry referrals, with a rising increase in the last four weeks. While they can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to locate formula for families reaching out, people in need are encouraged to call their 211 line where 24/7 staff and volunteers help connect people to food pantries that may have formula available.
“We know that putting food in kids’ and baby’s bellies is crucial to their growth and ability to thrive, and we’ll continue to monitor the formula shortage and other nutrition-related issues, updating our database to ensure we’re supporting Dane County families as best as we possibly can,” communications director Ashley Manthei said in a statement.
If you live in Wisconsin and fall under certain income limits, the state’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can help guide you to resources.
You can contact your local office for help in paying for formula and finding a formula alternative for your child.
Order directly from manufacturers & other tips
While grocery stores may currently have bare shelves, national experts say ordering directly through manufacturer websites themselves are often in stock and can at times offer discounts on subscription orders.
- Order Enfamil formula directly
- Order Gerber formula directly
- Check with your pediatrician: doctors may often have ideas of alternative ways to source formula, or may be able to direct you to other methods like moving to solid foods that might be appropriate for your child
- UW Health Kids recommends working with your doctor to find a safe alternative in a different brand, rather than relying on those suffering from safety recalls or supply chain shortages. If you don’t have a formula backup, it is safe to switch directly from one brand to another
What to avoid
Experts at UW Health Kids provided a list of alternative methods to avoid when finding the right solution for your child. Those include:
- Do NOT try to stretch out formula by adding additional water. This can be very dangerous for infants.
- Do NOT make a homemade formula, instead work with your child’s primary care provider to find an alternative in another brand.
- Be careful when purchasing from Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, or through a community as you cannot guarantee that the produce is not expired or recalled.