INDIANAPOLIS—Indiana families are struggling to find baby formula due to a national shortage.
“My daughter’s acid reflex has gotten very bad,” said Sophie Ross, a mother in Danville, Indiana. “She’s constipated, been completely fussy on this other formula that we have no other choice to use because you can’t find anything anymore. You just have to grab what you can.”
As a mother of three children, with her youngest being 9 months old, Ross said, “I’ve never had to go through a time like this. Luckily, we only have a few months left of needing the formula.”
She usually uses cow’s milk allergy formula but hasn’t been able to find it for two months and has had to settle for Meijer, Walmart and CVS brands.
Ross said her child is having trouble gaining weight due to her coughing up, and she has faced the dilemma of deciding how much formula is too much.
“We grab what we can, when we can, but you don’t want to hoard from other parents who need it too,” said Ross. “It’s a fine line of what’s hoarding and what’s not, and I don’t think a lot of non-parents are thinking about [it] during a time like this.”
Struggles of the shortage
The current shortage of baby formula can be traced back to as far as the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Since that time of international crisis, which interrupted manufacturers’ labor and transportation of raw materials, baby formula has become quite the scarce resource for many families around the U.S. Parents of newborns have flocked to stores and stockpiled baby formula whenever and wherever they can find it.
According to South Florida pediatrician Dr. Mona Amin, there are only five major manufacturing plants that make baby formula in America. “It’s strict for a reason. Baby formula is the most regulated food in the United States,” said Amin.
In February, one of those manufacturers, Abbott Nutrition, recalled several major brands of powdered formula and shut down its factory in Sturgis, Michigan, when federal officials began investigating four babies who had bacterial infections after consuming formula from the facility.
A possible solution
On June 9, the More Options for Infants and Parents Act, H.R. 8010, was introduced in the U.S. Congress. One of the co-sponsors of the bill is Congressman Dr. Larry Bucshon of Indiana’s 8th district.
“As a physician and a father of four children, I know just how critical it is to ensure that babies have the proper nutrients to grow into healthy adults,” said Bucshon in a press release. “Due to the ongoing baby formula shortage crisis, many Hoosier families have struggled to find formula, and this crisis is one that Hoosier parents should never have to face again.
"This is why I co-sponsored the More Options for Infants and Parents Act to put in place policies that will help ensure Hoosier families will not have to worry about shortages in the future.”
Three main things the bill focuses on are:
Requiring the FDA to review all pending baby formula submissions under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) no later than 14 days after the bill’s enactment.
Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to keep an updated list of substitutes to use in place of formula on the FDA’s website.
Giving the HHS the ability to waive any applicable labeling and nutritional requirements to regulate substitutions for products in shortage.
Where to find help
Sophie Ross is just one of a countless number of parents nationwide who are struggling to find the resources she needs for her child. But there are many people who are here to help.
The Indiana Formula Shortage Help Group on Facebook has over 1,200 members who supply others with information on when and where parents can find baby formula.
“We trade formula, sell it, give it away for free, or try anything to help people find it,” said Ileni Montalvo, who helps run the group. “It’s not just women. It’s grandparents, fathers and anyone who wants to help the next person.
“It’s gotten to the point where there are scalpers and scammers who try to sell formula for triple the normal price.”
Montalvo said she receives aid from the Indiana Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), which helps supply her with about seven cans of formula monthly but only to certain stores.
“I can’t pick any formula I see. It has to be a specific brand and a specific ounce,” says Montalvo. “Sometimes I’ll go to four or five stores and won’t find anything.”
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