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As the Infant Formula Shortage Drags On, Food and Farm Workers Focus On Breast-Feeding

Laura Morello, a farmworker from McMinnville, Oregon, worked in the fields, pruning plants, until the day before she went into labor on June 3.

Even though Morello, 33, knows she can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act beginning in the late stages of pregnancy, she learned from her experiences with her older children, who are now 6, 11, and 14, that she can’t afford to use time away from work for anything other than caring for and nourishing her baby.

She has always had trouble producing enough milk, so she gave her older children a mix of breast milk and formula. This time is no different, except that Morello—like so many parents—can’t find formula for her baby.

“I was very, very nervous about the formula shortage [before giving birth],” Morello told Civil Eats by Zoom recently. “People told me I better breastfeed because there’s no formula, and now [my baby is] here, the shelves are empty, and I’m not producing enough milk.”