Parents are turning to social media
In the meantime, parents are using social media to bring more attention to the issue, except they’re also being inundated with negative comments.
Some people don’t understand why parents are worrying about the shortage because “that’s what the boobies are for.” One called lactation “Gods solution.” Then there are those who say some parents just aren’t prioritizing “the best nutrition breast milk” or are making excuses to avoid it — “does this mean we have a breast shortage too,” one person tweeted.
Misleading and hurtful comments on social media “just boils down to parent shaming in general,” Haak said. “I don’t think that we can judge people for wherever they’re at. It does not make sense.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months and then introduce “complementary” foods for a year or longer alongside breastfeeding if they or the infant chooses.
Yet, only about 26% of babies born in 2018 were breastfed exclusively through six months, according to the CDC, and about 60% of mothers don’t breastfeed for as long as they want to. Parents of color and those who are younger are also less likely to ever breastfeed their babies.
A number of issues could be at play, Haak told us, and many factors are outside parents’ control. A person may have a medical condition that inhibits their ability to produce milk, like polycystic ovary syndrome; an injury to their chest; or a condition that requires medications or treatments like chemotherapy that may be incompatible with lactation. Sexual trauma may also make it difficult to breastfeed, and not all infant caretakers have given birth.
“It’s a whole systemic thing, too,” Haak said. Workplaces often don’t offer adequate parental leave or breaks during work that would give them the necessary and critical time to develop proper latching techniques with their babies and for their bodies to produce milk.
“It’s actually pretty challenging [to lactate] right away,” Haak said. “If parents don’t have enough time to work on it, then they might not have time to get it established.”
The same thinking applies to parents who initially decided not to breastfeed but are now reconsidering months down the line because of the formula shortage. Some parents may not be able to produce enough or any milk after so much time, Haak said.