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Knoxville mom who can't breastfeed worried for her baby girl

With empty store shelves and formula sold out online, Ellie Dougherty exhausts all options to feed her baby due in the coming weeks.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The formula shortage is sending parents into a panic across the country and it’s stressing out local mom Ellie Dougherty.

There are so many things to worry about when having a baby, Ellie never thought a lack of formula would be one of her biggest concerns.

Ellie and her husband Andrew are so thankful to be pregnant with their baby girl.

"I'm 39-years-old so the fact that I'm 35 weeks pregnant is a miracle in itself, especially when several doctors told us that it would be impossible," Ellie said.

Excitement on one hand—worries on the other, especially when the expecting parents heard about the formula shortage and started looking for some online.

"You pull it up and it's out of stock, out of stock, out of stock and unable to deliver," Ellie said

Ellie doesn’t have the option to breastfeed which makes this need even greater.

"As a breast cancer survivor, I had breast cancer in 2016 and had a bilateral mastectomy. And so formula is the only option for us.  I don't have the option to breastfeed," Ellie said.

They tried to find formula, store after store, only to find empty shelves. They found out they don’t qualify for donor milk from the Mother’s Milk Bank of Tennessee.

"The pediatrician was wonderful and called the Tennessee Milk Bank, thinking that maybe as a breast cancer survivor with having had a bilateral mastectomy, I would qualify for donor milk," Ellie said. 

She did not. The milk bank said they distribute exclusively to babies in the NICU.

"Once we realized this is a real issue, we started spreading the word to family and friends," Ellie said. "Everybody's so eager to help. They text us late at night about finding a can in Utah."

With their baby girl due in a month, all the details are coming together except for one of the biggest necessities.

"We've got the nursery furniture put together, the diaper bag packed and got my hospital checklist. We've got sterilized bottles, but nothing to put in them," said Ellie.  

Here are some do's and don'ts on this shortage from a professor in UT's Department of Nutrition:

  • Do not water down formula
  • Do not use cow's milk or alternative milk
  • Do talk to your pediatrician
  • Do try other infant formula brands as long as it's not a specialized formula   
  • If you are nursing and have a low supply—work with a lactation professional to help you increase your supply

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