Lack of infant formula causes anxious parents to pursue shelves across the country

Jessica Ibarra stood in a Target store staring at bare shelves that should have been lined with infant formula. It was Tuesday, six days after she gave birth to her daughter, and neither she nor her husband had been successful in finding infant formula during trips to several grocery stores near their home in Arlington, Texas.

Another mother, who was holding her newborn baby, went through the formula aisle. She looked at the empty shelves, looked at Ibarra.

“I can not find the baby’s infant formula anywhere,” Ibarra’s mother said.

“I can not either,” replied Ibarra, who cannot breastfeed because she has epilepsy and is taking a seizure medication that could pose a risk to her infant. Both women began to cry.

Lack of infant formula causes anxious parents to pursue shelves across the country
Jessica Ibarra and her daughter, AriaItem by Jessica Ibarra

A lack of formula that began in the early days of the pandemic has worsened significantly in recent weeks due to labor shortages and a major recall of products, which has created panic and anxiety among parents across the country.

With the nationwide sell-out percentage of 43 percent for the week ending May 8, according to retail analysis firm Datasembly, many families are struggling to find formula in stores and online. The delays could last for eight to ten weeks, Abbott Nutrition, the company behind the recall, announced on Wednesday.

Many parents have been exhausted by finding breast milk substitutes, which leads some to consider taking steps they would not normally take, just to be able to feed their babies.

Recipes for homemade baby substitutes are circulating on social media – something the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against, and calls it unsafe. The academy also warns against diluting the formula to make it last longer, which will not cover infants’ nutritional needs.

In Washington, Jason Resendez and his husband, Brian Pierce, have not done anything risky like diluting the formula. But they have still felt uneasy. Instead of feeding their 3-month-olds the formula they gave him when they first adopted him, they have had to rely on what is in stock – and it is difficult to find a brand that is consistently available.

Brian Pierce, Jason Resendez and their son
Brian Pierce, Jason Resendez and their son.Courtesy of Jason Resendez

“It feels like we’re playing Russian roulette with the baby’s formula, which as new parents is not a good feeling, because we do not know what he is allergic to,” said Resendez. “Constantly trying new formulas is very scary.”

In Evans, Georgia, William Zachary and his wife have spent hours searching for breast milk substitutes for their 6-month-old twins, which they use as a supplement to breast milk.

This week, Zachary planned the most efficient route he could think of for a search during the lunch break, which involved stopping at Walmart, Kroger, Publix and other stores. He returned empty-handed.

Since the shortage began to increase after Abbott Nutrition’s voluntary recall in February, Zachary’s twins have had six different types of formula – whatever the family can get. Some seem more suitable for the twins than others.

“Our oldest son is lactose intolerant. We think one of the twins is too – when he does not have sensitive versions, he ends up being more fussy, “said Zachary.” It ends up being a bit of a problem, but I prefer them to be fed. . “

Adriana and William Zachary with their children, Selena, Mason, and the twins, Benjamin and Theodore.
Adriana and William Zachary with their children, Selena, Mason, and the twins, Benjamin and Theodore.Lexie Merlino photography

Most babies use breast milk substitute: While 84.1 percent of babies are breastfed at some point in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46.9 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed after 3 months, and only 25.6 percent after 6 months. months.

As the lack of formula has become more acute, some in online forums have put those who use the formula to shame, and suggested that they can simply breastfeed instead.

“We do not have that option,” Resendez said. “It definitely underscores how disconnected some people are from the realities of caring and parenting, and how that perception is so stereotypical that if you care for a child, you have to be a father and a mother providing that care, when the reality is it is thousands of LGBT couples providing that care. ”

Ibarra knows that her seizure medication is transmitted through her breast milk – but in recent days she has started pumping and freezing breast milk in case she finds no formula for her daughter Aria and has no other choice. She hopes not to get to that point, and has recruited friends and family in other areas to look for formula so she can build a warehouse.

“I’m trying to take care of my daughter and spend time bonding with her, and it’s so tough because it feels like there’s a cloud hanging over us,” she said.

“It’s heartbreaking. It makes you feel like a failure as a parent, as if you are failing your children because you can not even feed them, she added. “It makes you feel helpless.”

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