‘Life Or Death For These Kids’: I Talked To 3 Moms Who Can’t Find Formula To Feed Their Children

The formula my twins use has been sold out for months. 

Since we’re feeding two hungry babies, I always purchase the largest containers I can find at Sam’s Club. When the twins were born last May we settled on Member’s Mark Sensitivity, which is the off-brand version of Similac Pro-Sensitive, because it was the only one that didn’t make my 34-week preemies vomit and cry from gastrointestinal distress. It’s also much less expensive than the name brand version. We typically go through a 48 ounce container every week.

Parents who use formula know that switching brands is not the same thing as swapping from Heinz ketchup to Hunt’s. Many babies can only tolerate certain formulations, especially when you factor in food allergies and intolerances. 

Mainstream media is now, finally, starting to address the nationwide formula shortage, if only to say they’re aware of it. Outgoing White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a recent press conference that the FDA is treating the shortage as a “priority” and is “working around the clock to address any possible shortage.” 

For many caregivers, it’s been too little, too late. The same news outlets that treated a shortage of toilet paper in 2020 as catastrophic have been noticeably silent for weeks on the fact that some parents are struggling to feed their infants. 

The retail data firm Datasembly reported that 40%-50% of major formula brands were sold out in May in 26 states. The areas most affected by the shortages were Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. But as so many parents will tell you, these shortages are affecting families everywhere.

I put out a query in a Facebook mom group asking if anyone would be willing to discuss their experience with the formula shortages. The number of responses was swift and overwhelming. 

Take Jennifer Allen’s story. She’s a special needs mom from Illinois whose 5-year-old daughter, Olivia (“Livvy”), requires a specialty formula for nutrition. Livvy has Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), a chronic immune condition of the esophagus which requires her to be on a highly specialized diet and use a feeding tube. 

Jennifer explained to me that the formula they were using, Neocate Splash, was the first brand that put Livvy into remission from EoE after three years of battling the condition. 

“Her whole world depends upon this Neocate Splash,” Jen said, explaining that she was slowly starting to experiment with solid foods for her daughter after finding a formula brand that actually worked.

Livvy gets the formula through insurance but as of this month, the orders will no longer be filled due to the shortages. Jennifer was able to score six cases of Neocate Splash using Facebook group pages and got four more from a friend who drove over an hour to pick them up for her. But she’s not sure what will happen after those run out. A growing 5-year-old needs a lot more calories than a newborn, so a case doesn’t last the family very long. 

“It should not have come to this. We should not be out here begging to feed our kids that don’t have another choice,” Jen told The Daily Wire. “This is the only option we have and it’s really life or death for these kids that can’t have anything else.”

“It’s terrifying,” she said, echoing what so many other mothers are feeling.

I also spoke to Schylar Miller, a fellow mom of twins from Tennessee who depends on the government-run supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to offset the skyrocketing cost of groceries. 

Schylar was one of many moms who had the extra challenge of finding the specific brands and sizes of baby formula that were covered by the WIC program. She said she’s been forced to pay out of pocket because the formula that’s covered is never in stock. 

“We haven’t been able to use WIC for two or three months because we just can’t find the right sizes, the right brand,” she said while emphasizing that her main goal is feeding her sons, Jonah and Elias, no matter the cost.

She said her boys have been using formula since they were in the NICU. One son “really struggles with switching formula,” which the family has had to do a lot since the shortages began. 

Schylar also discussed how hunting down formula takes a lot of time and energy. The mom of three has to load up both twins in their infant carriers and get her toddler out the door whenever they see formula is available at the local Target or Walmart. She sent me a video of Target’s empty shelves, saying she encountered a woman who drove 45 minutes thinking she’d find formula there only to leave disappointed. 

“I feel so bad for every mom out there who is struggling. I just can’t even imagine what other moms are going through with younger babies,” Schylar told The Daily Wire. 

Formula shortages have been happening intermittently since last year amid other supply chain stocking issues. But the situation became critical following the shutdown of a major manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, three months ago when the Abbott facility was linked to a bacterial contamination. Two infants died after a bacterial infection which is still under investigation. 

An Abbott spokesperson told The Daily Mail that “infant formula produced at our Sturgis facility is not the likely source of infection in the reported cases and that there was not an outbreak caused by products from the facility.” 

The company further stated they are “working closely with the FDA to restart operations.” No date has been given for when that could happen.

Social media has exploded with commentary on the formula shortages, with many prominent accounts insisting the government should make this issue their number one priority. It also reinvigorated the age-old debate over breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, with some critics smugly insisting that the shortages prove why breastfeeding is superior.

Meanwhile, plenty of mothers are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons or because their supply doesn’t match the baby’s demand, which forces them to supplement with formula. I breastfed my three older children without an issue but was unable to match the demand of feeding two babies at once, especially after they spent a month in the NICU while I was exclusively pumping. Breastfeeding is wonderful; it’s not always possible. 

Then there are special needs moms, like Jen, who rely on formula for older kids. No matter the reason, it’s become clear that placing the blame on the mothers who are desperate to feed their babies is not helping the situation.

Madison Turner is a new mom in Utah who says the formula shortage in her area is getting out of control because of how many larger families there are in that location. She’s been breastfeeding her daughter all along but has started weaning her as her supply dropped. 

She’s already thinking about having another baby but says the shortages have her “a little bit nervous” about it and already worrying about how she’ll feed her future child. Madison also said if the shortages persist, she may even delay giving her daughter a sibling. 

“[Continued formula shortages] would mean I wait a little bit longer to have another baby,” the new mom told The Daily Wire.

What struck me most about the dozens of women sharing their stories was the level of concern for others. Even though they were personally terrified by the shortages, they were vocal about fearing most for other mothers going through the same thing.

These moms are utilizing Facebook groups to swap formula and send it all over the country to help each other get what they need. They’re directing those in need to crisis pregnancy centers, who often keep formula in stock but have also been running low due to the shortages. They’re being proactive during a horrible situation. Yes, there are terrible people price gouging and trying to make a profit. But for the most part the moms have banded together to help each other through this crisis. 

While the media publishes think pieces on abortion access and student loan debt, and while most politicans focus on these topics as well, parents around the country are taking notice of who is advocating on their behalf. 

As podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey shared to Twitter, “REALITY CHECK: Women’s fear of being unable to get baby formula will affect the vote this fall far more than women’s fear of being unable to get an abortion.”

These moms have a single focus right now: feeding their children. Until that happens, nothing else matters.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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