Amid ongoing baby formula shortage, Central District Health Department plans breastfeeding workshop Grand Island Local News

A breastfeeding workshop and celebration event hosted by the Central District Health Department is planned for Thursday at the Grand Island Public Library.

“Every August we like to do something special to recognize breastfeeding in our community and to help bring partners together to help support clients and other families with breastfeeding,” said Rachel Sazama, CDHD’s WIC program supervisor.

Nebraska’s “Women, Infants and Children” program provides healthy food at no cost, breastfeeding support and nutrition information to program clients.

The workshop should be especially beneficial as baby formula continues to be in short supply.

“We’ve had moms call who are specifically looking for how they can build their milk supply up, because maybe they were doing both,” said Nancy Esch, WIC lactation consultant. “With relactation, moms who have stopped breastfeeding for weeks or months can relactate. It’s a process, but they can do that.”

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The workshop will be scheduled for 2 to 4:30 pm

A class will be offered in English at 2:30 pm and translated in Spanish at 3:30.

“For moms who are pregnant here at WIC, if they choose, we do a breastfeeding class via Zoom,” Esch said. “It’s a PowerPoint presentation just going over the basics and benefits of breastfeeding, how to latch your baby, and some of the newest research that’s coming out.”

“It just gives them a real heads-up when they go and have their baby,” she added.

Breastfeeding might seem like an obvious and natural function, but there’s more to it.

“It is a learned behavior. And it’s a learned behavior for the newborn, too,” Esch said. It’s like walking. It takes a while for that child to get the latch down correctly, and mom and baby work together as a dyad. We get rid of some of those notions that it is a simple task.”

“We don’t make it sound like it’s hard either, but we’re here for them.”

While some people think WIC is a formula-based program, it is one of the largest breastfeeding promotion programs in the country.

CDHD has an 88% initiation rate for breastfeeding, Sazama said.

“That means 88% of our babies have actually breastfed at some point,” she said. “We’re really excited about that and try to get them to breastfeed as long as moms want to.”

CDHD is also experiencing a formula shortage, just like retailers have since spring, Sazama said.

“Right now the WIC program has a waiver process so that WIC clients are able to get different types of formula,” she said. “Before it was structured so you can only get one specific formula with your benefits, so they’ve increased that.”

People call daily to have their formula changed, Esch said.

“They call from the store, that they can’t find the formula, and ask if they can please get a different brand, because it’s specific on their card,” she said. “We have that technology now that we can change it while they’re in the store to get them another formula so they’re not going without.”

Both Sazama and Esch advocate the benefits of breastfeeding.

Esch described it as “absolutely the best food for babies.”

“There are dangers in giving formula,” she said. “Formula is not a sterile product. Breast milk is. Once the milk is established, it’s less time consuming for moms. The health benefits are amazing. There are over 100,000 ingredients in breast milk. And it’s species specific. Mom is making it for her baby.

She added, “I could go on for a really long time about the benefits.”

There are several lactation consultants in the Grand Island area, Esch noted.

Consultants include: Alycia Parker and Shawnee Williams at CHI Health St. Francis; Chelsey Kennedy and Brandi Stein at CHI Women’s Clinic; Libby Crockett at Grand Island Clinic; Tina Vettel at Grand Island Regional Medical Center; Julie Ahlman at Hastings Mary Lanning; and Jennifer Harney at Aurora Memorial Community Health.

No sign-up is necessary for Thursday’s breastfeeding workshop. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about CDHD programs and services, visit


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