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This mom went viral for calling 911 because she needed baby formula

Shannon Bird is a well known mom blogger and influencer with more than 100,000 Instagram followers. For years she's been known for her style and for her family's quirky adventures, but in 2020 the mom of five became internet famous for something else.

This mama called 911 in the middle of the night because she ran out of breastmilk and asked the police to bring her formula.

The criticism was swift, but Bird's story isn't just about when it is appropriate to call emergency services—it's about who has the privilege of being able to call 911, the lack of support for mothers in America, gender roles and the erosion of the village. In short, this isn't just a story about Shannon Bird calling 911. It's a story about a society that is failing mothers.

Here's what you need to know about this viral story:

This week Bird appeared on Fox News Channel's Daily Briefing, but the 911 call happened in January 

It's been weeks since certain corners of the internet blew up after literally watching Bird (via Instagram stories) call 911 because she ran out of breastmilk and had no formula. To Bird's followers, this is old news, but it's been making the news in recent days.

On February 17 Bird appeared on Fox News Channels' Daily Briefing with her youngest child to talk about why she called 911 when she ran out of breastmilk (and had no formula in her home). As the Utah mom previously told Fox 6, "I've never not had food for my newborn. It was really scary for me."

How this mom ended up calling 911 for formula

Those watching Bird's Instagram Stories on January 28 saw this unfold in real-time. Bird was recovering from some postpartum complications at the time and a medication she was taking may have been a factor in her declining milk supply.

She found herself home alone (her husband was out of town) with her infant and her four other young children (one of whom had a cast on a broken leg). She thought she had enough pumped breastmilk in the freezer to get her though the night, but eventually realized she didn't. She also didn't have any baby formula.

In her Instagram Stories she detailed how she called friends and family for help around 2 AM but no one picked up the phone. Eventually, she called 911, telling the operator she was scared and had no way to feed her 6-week-old baby.

"I've been calling neighbors and no one will answer," she said on the call. "I've never been in this predicament ever. My milk just literally dried out. This is my fifth kid and this has never happened."

Soon, the police were at her door.

The police brought this mom milk + formula in the middle of the night

After the 911 call, Bird posted video footage of police arriving at her home to her Instagram Stories (as her doorbell cam had captured the footage). It shows Officer Brett Wagstaff of the Lone Peak police department arrive at Bird's door with a gallon of milk.

Bird explained that what she needed wasn't regular milk, but baby formula. "We'll be right back with some formula for your baby — she's adorable," Wagstaff told Bird.

Soon enough he came back with baby formula from Walmart, telling Bird, "That's the same stuff we gave my daughter when she was first born, so hopefully it doesn't upset her stomach."

Officer Wagstaff and his fellow officer Konner Gabbitas have been hailed as heroes in the recent news coverage of this story (and they are) but many critics pointed out that Bird had the privilege of being a wealthy, white mom when she called 911, and wonder if the response would be the same from mothers of color or lesser means.

The backlash over privilege + a need for postpartum support 

Twenty-four hours after posting the Instagram Stories showing the police delivering baby formula, Bird announced she was taking a break from social media (she's since returned) which isn't surprising when you look at the comments on her accounts.

People were upset with her for using 911 the way she did, and upset with her husband for leaving her alone with five kids while he went out of town. When Fox News picked up the story the criticism continued.

"This is not what 911 is for... In some places, you'd get a ticket for misuse of emergency services. But, here is everyone enabling some more. Saying how heroic and brave this was. I can't even handle it," one Instagram user commented.

"Flip this narrative and you would get a drastically different response. #whiteprivilege," another noted.

That does need to be part of this conversation. There are many mothers in America who would not feel comfortable calling 911 during a parenting emergency due to institutional bias and racism. And that's not fair, because all mothers should be able to get help when they need it.

Many people have pointed out all the things Bird could have done differently in this situation—maybe she could have gotten her kids up and driven to Walmart herself, maybe she could have used Uber Eats or Instacart to order formula for delivery—but at that moment she couldn't. She was in crisis.

Calling 911 is an act of desperation, and it's a sign that the cultural expectations on women are causing a lot of maternal stress.

It takes time to recover from birth (especially if you have postpartum complications).

Breastfeeding can be very difficult (even if you've breastfed before with ease).

And when your baby is crying and you can't help them, that's terrifying.

Many commenters suggest this is a story about a woman abusing the 911 service, but maybe it's a story about a country where mothers in crisis feel they have no one to call. Maybe it's a story about how when the "village" erodes, mothers suffer the most. Maybe it's a sign that we need more postpartum supports, more education and more empathy for mothers.

[Motherly reached out to Shannon Bird for comment and will update this post if we receive a reply.]

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

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We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

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The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

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Lightweight + compact:

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This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

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I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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