Dr. Cara Hartle, OB/GYN at Virginia Physicians for Women, shares ways the local mom community is helping each other find formula, breastfeeding support, and mental health resources through the formula shortage and other struggles of new motherhood
Moms with little ones: We feel you! These past few years have been quite difficult for many reasons, but now to add to it, there is a formula shortage. This formula shortage has affected millions of families across the country, and the Richmond area has been no exception. When it comes to motherhood, there is a lot of uncertainty, but it can be extra scary to have uncertainty around feeding your baby. Whether you are formula feeding, breastfeeding, or are just not sure which path to choose, we are here to help support you.
With so many of our VPFW patients facing these same challenges, we wanted to remind you that you’re not alone. Your VPFW providers are right there with you. In fact, seven of our OB/GYNs have had babies in the last year, and there are two more who are due this summer. We are all in the same boat, so we want to help as much as we can.
Do not hesitate to talk to any of the providers here at VPFW if you’re feeling stressed or anxious about feeding your baby (or for any reason at all!). For now, the least that we can do is share some resources for formula feeding, breastfeeding, and mental health for new moms. There are many ways in which the local mom community is supporting each other during this difficult time, but hopefully this list of resources is at least a place to start.
There are several local Facebook groups that are facilitating the exchange of formula and other baby items from families who have them to families who need them. You can easily join these groups to reach out with requests for formula or other questions, or to share formula or resources if you have them to spare. The goal is moms helping other moms. Here are some of the resources:
RVA Formula Exchange Facebook Group
RVA Formula Exchange is a Facebook group started by a local mom on the hunt for formula during the ongoing shortage. It’s specifically for local parents of Central Virginia and surrounding areas. Group members use the page to buy, sell and trade formulas with other verified local parents and share locations and pictures of local stores that are stocked with formula.
Villa Exchange Facebook Group
Villa Exchange is a Facebook group for moms in Central and Northern Virginia that is a FREE baby marketplace for formula, supplies for babies, and supplies for moms (including diapers, clothing, baby gear, breastfeeding supplies, furniture, etc.). You can post specific requests for formula or other items in the Facebook group, or fill out this request form if your need hasn’t been met by posting in the group.
If you are in an urgent situation of any kind, you can email them directly at VillaAdvocacy@gmail.com so they can connect you with the proper resources.
Formula Gift Cards through Urban Baby Beginnings (For City of Richmond Residents Who Participate in WIC)
The City of Richmond is offering a program through nonprofit Urban Baby Beginnings to award $125 gift cards to eligible families who rely on federal aid to buy baby formula. Urban Baby Beginnings is a nonprofit community service provider for pregnant and infant parenting families in Richmond and other localities throughout Virginia.
The gift cards would benefit families in the program who may need to purchase formula at regular market price from stores that do not participate in WIC. Fill out this form to apply for a formula gift card.
RVA Formula Finder on Instagram
Check RVA Formula Finder’s daily Instagram stories for photos and locations where formula has been spotted on store shelves in the Richmond area.
The Formula Mom on Instagram
The Formula Mom’s account was created to help moms feel good about formula. It includes tips, tricks, education & advocacy, plus guilt-free, shame-free support for anyone who chooses to formula feed their baby.
Breastfeeding and Pumping Resources
We know that the formula shortage is also weighing heavily on the breastfeeding population. You may feel more pressure to produce more, to try to start breastfeeding again after stopping, or to try breastfeeding when you originally wanted to do formula only. Some moms who chose to formula feed are now considering breastfeeding and are in need of support because they have never breastfed before. Those who have chosen to breastfeed are now concerned about back-up options if their supply runs short or if they experience challenges with initiating milk production.
Whether breastfeeding was the plan all along or not, here are some great resources for moms who are going this route.
Our providers recommend kellymom.com for answers to so many breastfeeding questions. From issues with latching, to amping up your supply, to treating and preventing clogs or engorgement, to guidance on pumping when returning to work, kellymom.com covers just about any breastfeeding-related topic you could fathom.
Le Leche League of Richmond Facebook Group
The mission of the Le Leche League of Richmond Facebook Group is to provide mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education to help breastfeeding mothers in the greater Richmond community. They also hold free breastfeeding support Zoom meetings twice a month.
Breastfeeding Virginia Facebook Group
The Breastfeeding Virginia group provides breastfeeding support and an open forum for Virginia moms to ask questions, share answers, and discuss breastfeeding-related topics.
If you find yourself having difficulty breastfeeding, a lactation specialist can help. All of the hospitals where we deliver have lactation specialists who will visit your hospital room after delivery to give you some initial support and tips. The hospitals also have very comprehensive virtual classes you can sign up for, which can be extremely helpful for moms who are breastfeeding for the first time or want a refresher.
Many pediatrician offices in the area have lactation specialists on site as well. Commonwealth Pediatrics’ lactation specialists also have some great tips for moms interested in breastfeeding listed on their website.
Urban Baby Beginnings’ Cocoa Latte Cafe®
Urban Baby Beginnings’ Cocoa Latte Cafe provides community breastfeeding support through the use of peer counselors, certified lactation counselors, and international board-certified lactation consultants. Support groups are FREE of charge to attending members (space is limited).
Choosing the Right Method for Feeding Your Baby
Even before the shortage, the pressures of feeding your child could take a toll on moms. We want you to remember that whether you choose to formula feed, breastfeed, or a combination of the two, the most important thing is that your baby is fed. You know what’s best for your family and you shouldn’t feel pressured by anyone else to choose a certain feeding method.
Mental Health Resources
If the formula shortage or other pressures of motherhood are weighing on you, you’re not alone. In fact, 20% of women experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like anxiety or postpartum depression. If you’re experiencing any mental health symptoms, we encourage you to reach out to your VPFW provider and seek therapy or online support groups. Here are just a few:
Seven Starling Virtual Mental Health Support
There’s a new virtual mental health group whose mission is to make high-quality mental health care more accessible to new moms. Seven Starling is a digital maternal mental health clinic that supports expecting and new mothers who are suffering from depression or anxiety.They will match you with a licensed therapist who is an expert on postpartum mental health to evaluate your symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan for you. You’ll also be able to join weekly small group therapy sessions for support from your peers.
Villa Facebook Group – Free Weekly Support Group
The Villa Exchange Facebook group we mentioned above has a parent group called Villa, a motherhood support group that believes all mamas should have access to free mental health support. They focus on all areas of support for moms, and their core is a free virtual support group that meets every Wednesday at 6pm on Zoom. Use Meeting ID: 768 660 0776 and passcode: VILLA to join. [Please note the passcode is ALL CAPS.] This support group is open to all moms, and we hope you’ll take advantage of it.
Urban Baby Beginnings Maternal Wellness Programs
Urban Baby Beginnings (UBB) is a nonprofit community service provider for pregnant and infant parenting families in Richmond, Petersburg, and other localities throughout Virginia. They offer family support services, lactation specialists, doula services, and maternal wellness programs for pregnant and infant moms.
UBB’s maternal wellness programs include their Sister To Sister Support Group, a non-judgmental, confidential atmosphere for women to share their common questions, concerns and difficulties, as well as their ReByrth™ Mothering Circle, a space where women can share their successes and challenges in motherhood as well as discuss weekly motherhood-related topics.
VPFW is Here to Help
While your VPFW providers might not be able to find formula for you, they are always here if you need to talk about the stress, anxiety, or depression that can come along with having a new infant. Dr. Jessica Ciaburri wrote a great blog post, What to Expect After Delivery, that covers not only the physical but also the emotional challenges new moms face in the months after giving birth. We’re happy to help guide you in the right direction if you need help!
Moms Helping Moms
Remember that you’re not facing any of these challenges alone. There’s a whole community of fellow moms who are sharing resources and looking out for each other. We hope you’ll take advantage of it.
If you have any resources to add to our list, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. And please pass it along to anyone you know who might need it!
About Cara Hartle, DO Dr. Cara Hartle is an OB/GYN at Virginia Physicians for Women and a mom of three. She sees patients at VPFW’s St. Mary’s and Henrico Doctors’ offices and delivers babies at St. Mary’s Hospital and Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.
To schedule an appointment with a VPFW provider, you can call us at 804-897-2100 or set an appointment online.