SAN ANTONIO – Infant formula has become a precious commodity, and the hunt is stressing moms out.
“You go to two, three, four stores a day, and shelves are completely empty,” said Brandy Sloan, a mother of two, including her newly adopted baby who needs a particular formula.
She’s shopped the stores, shopped online, pleaded over social media and even wrote to the manufacturer.
“It’s been insane, Sloan said. “There is only one thing your baby can have. It’s not like you can just get them a Happy Meal.”
The shortage has dragged on for months. First, pandemic supply chain problems affected inventory. Then, February’s massive recall of some popular brands exacerbated the situation.
Abbott Nutrition, the maker of the recalled Similac and other products, stated on its website that the company is “prioritizing production” to help replenish the supply and is even air-shipping Similac Advance powder to the U.S. from its FDA-regulated facility in Ireland.
No timetable for when supplies will be normalized has been given.
Other manufacturers are also increasing production to provide vital products for vulnerable babies.
In the meantime, Dr. Courtney Smith, a pediatrician with Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, advises parents to be flexible but safe.
“Looking for a store-brand generic or looking for another brand is what we’ve been encouraging most patients to do and get as close as what they were on as possible,” Smith said.
Some babies transition easily, but others may not, becoming fussy, gassy, or unable to tolerate different formulas, she said.
Smith said talking to the baby’s pediatrician for guidance and resources is key.
One thing she says a parent should never do is to dilute the formula.
“It can absolutely cause severe problems for babies if you water down the formula,” Dr. Smith said. “Anything from the calorie content to electrolyte imbalances (can occur), so we absolutely advise against watering down. "
And while it may be tempting to buy the formula from people or companies you don’t know, she says to be cautious. It’s important to know where the formula came from and how it was stored.
Experts suggest shopping in smaller, less-frequented stores to find the scarce formula and shop online from reputable retailers.
It can also help to network and spread the word to your trusted friends and family. Sloan did just that. Out-of-state friends were able to find her baby’s formula and send it.
“I actually have some friends who graciously donated some of their frozen breast milk,” the mother said. “That actually saved us and got us through because I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.”