• One Bay Area mom has spent $92 a month to donate her breast milk amid the formula shortage.
  • She's received no medical reimbursement for the breast pump and donated thousands of ounces of milk.
  • The look on one mom's face was "priceless" when she received the breast-milk donation, she said.

In the wake of the US's unprecedented baby-formula shortage, one sympathetic mom made an executive decision to pay the cost of breast-milk pumping so needy babies could be fed.

"I'm paying to be a milk donor," said Chiara Sottile, a mom of two and a news producer from the San Francisco Bay Area. "Originally, I was feeding my own son, but things have gotten so dire in this country, so how can I stop? I can't bear to see these families giving their baby evaporated milk when they're running out of formula."

The baby-formula shortage has sent parents around the country into a panic over the ability to feed their babies adequately. 

One of Chiara Sottile's donations to a local milk bank. Foto: Chiara Sottile

It's not just the monetary cost

Sottile decided to keep her rented breast-milk pump, for which she shells out $92 each month without medical reimbursement, in order to supply families out of luck finding formula during the crisis. The 35-year-old estimated that she pumped several thousand ounces to donate to milk banks and families, including one with an adopted baby.

It costs her in other ways as well. "There's the monetary expense, but there's also the time away from your kids, pumping in supply closets and in the back of cars on shoot locations," she said. 

Chiara Sottile showing her 11-month-old son the cooler full of her donated breast milk headed for the milk bank. Foto: Courtesy of Chiara Sottile.

Chiara Sottile surveys the stashed frozen milk she stores in her garage. Foto: Courtesy of Chiara Sottile.

While she planned on weaning her 11-month-old son months ago, she couldn't bring herself to cut off her supply that could help struggling families. "We are seeing babies hospitalized because their caregivers have no better options," she said, adding, "I have an oversupply, and being able to share it is a gift."

During a recent work trip, Sottile was busy pumping on the plane, in the public restroom at the airport, and at the hotel, netting a supply of some 60 ounces, she said. Upon meeting one local mom, Sottile knew exactly what to do with the stash: "I opened up my little cooler bag and gave her the milk," Sottile said of the mom with an infant who was about to go on evaporated milk. "She was stunned and grateful and teared up. You don't expect someone to just hand over their breast milk."

Sottile said that while sending coolers of breast milk to the milk bank in her area is rewarding, seeing the look on a mom's face is priceless. "It makes every $92-a-month payment, every hour sitting next to that pump, worth it," she said. "There's no comparison to seeing a grateful parent and baby who can confidently and happily eat because of you."

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