How did I spend a recent afternoon? I spent it traveling to four different cities to find a canister of formula for my baby. Gone are the days of simply dashing to the local market, located a couple of miles from my house, to grab the formula. Instead, I have to carve out about six hours to find the specialty formula my daughter needs.
The recent formula shortage has caused a significant crisis for me as a mother and my baby. My youngest daughter was born with severe health issues that forced her to stay in the NICU for about a month and was released home with monitors. Due to her complications, breastfeeding was an option ruled out early, and pumping halted about two months after she was born. She was placed on a specialty formula to help with her nutrient support and reflux issues. It has been a long road, and even now, a year later, we attend therapy twice a week. She is small for 13 months and weighs what most babies half her age weigh. Needing extra nutrient support has kept her on formula for longer than most of her age. The extra nutrient-based formula has been challenging to find.
A couple of weeks back, I had gone to two cities before finding it. Still, this recent Thursday afternoon, I traveled to every large formula retailer I could find in four different cities. The simple math here let me know that the shortage is becoming a more significant problem with every single week that passes. I was beginning to give up hope and worry about how much gas money I would still plummet through before I found some. Most of the shelves were bare in every store I entered, proving that I was not the only parent out there trying to help their baby survive this formula shortage crisis.
At last, I laid eyes on her canister of formula in the first store I stopped at in the fourth city. However, below the formula was a neatly typed sign letting me know that I was limited to only buying three per visit due to the shortage. While I appreciate that I can buy more than one, it still limits me for the next time she needs more. Just the thought of next time sends me to anxiety mode:
“How far will I have to travel to find more?”
“What if I cannot find it at all?”
These questions worry me as a mother and set off a short range of panicked emotions. It has made me look into alternatives to baby formula if I cannot find any. Can I purchase breast milk from donation centers? Is goat’s milk even acceptable to give a baby in replacement for formula? I spend my time researching these things, things I would have never imagined myself to explore. She is my fourth child, and I never had to worry about finding formula to feed one of them until now.
Unfortunately, my now typical Thursday afternoon of shopping for baby formula is a reality for many parents with newborns now. Worrying about the next time they need more formula. How long it might take them to find more and if they will be able to locate any. They are spreading the word to all their family and friends so they can look for them in other cities, being willing to ship or hand-deliver the formula if needed. Knowing you cannot wait until the baby is close to running out because you are not sure you can find more quickly. I am constantly asking my husband how much formula we have at least twice a day because I worry I will fall too short before shopping again. All of these are now everyday worries and compounding problems for new parents.
As I type this, I just fed my daughter a bottle and enjoyed her falling asleep in my arms. Innocent to the crisis around how to get her more formula for her survival. She rests peacefully, and I worry because that is what we moms do. I am determined to do all I can to keep her formula in my pantry. However, the “what-ifs” still plague me. I am unsure if I will see the end of the formula shortage any time soon. Hope seems pretty bleak at this point, and now it is just survival mode. I am surviving one more week, surviving one more can of formula, and surviving one more bottle. Trying not to let panic set in and hanging on to hope I will find what I need to feed my baby. Sometimes I cannot grasp that I have to worry about this in our current world times.
To all the parents out there fighting the formula shortage crisis with me, I see you, and we will get through this. Hopefully, it ends sooner rather than later.