BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — As the nation faces a baby formula shortage, WMBD took a look at what breastfeeding efforts look like in Central Illinois.

Katie Ludy, RN, BSN, CLC, works at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Birthing Center in Bloomington, a baby-friendly hospital.

It is pretty prestigious, she said, to get the designation of “baby-friendly.”

“Basically, what it means is that we promote breastfeeding, because that is what is best for babies,” Ludy said. “All of our staff has to go through pretty extensive breastfeeding training.”

The staff also includes lactation consultants, like Ludy. 

“We’re just there to support moms, however, they choose to feed their baby, but especially when it comes to breastfeeding,” she said. 

Sometimes, Ludy said, babies are born prematurely, before the mother can produce breast milk. That is where donor milk from milk banks comes in to help. 

With the national shortage of baby formula, could more mothers turn to these banks? 

“From our end, we haven’t really seen that there’s been a shortage of milk,” she said. “That’s not to say that there could be. I could definitely see people turning to milk banks if there aren’t able to find formula.”

That being said, milk banks prioritize hospitals and nursery babies, Ludy said. 

OSF St. Joseph has CLCs during all hours of the day, Ludy said. She often works at night, where she answers calls from stressed mothers who are up with their babies. She said she loves to be able to provide support over the phone, which is what new mothers need most. 

“Breastfeeding is definitely a time commitment. I’m also breastfeeding myself right now,” Ludy said, “I can speak from experience that it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort.”

She said breastfeeding becomes even more of a challenge when women return to work after a typical 8-12 week maternity leave. Women have to jump through hoops, she said, like navigating breast pumping at work. 

“I think women hear horror stories of people’s really bad experiences with breastfeeding, and that can kind of scare them away,” Ludy said. “I would just encourage all moms out there to really consider breastfeeding.”

Of course, it is not always possible to breastfeed. While hospitals do encourage the practice instead of formula, Ludy said it is important to fight the stigma that mothers who do not breastfeed are “bad.”

“I always tell my moms that my number one priority is to make sure your baby is fed,” Ludy said. “No matter how you choose to do that, I’m going to support you.”

That said, breastmilk is “unmatched,” Ludy said.