I had to travel to four cities to find infant formula. American parents are desperate | Blair Hayse

HHow did I spend a recent afternoon? I spent time traveling to four different cities to find a can of formula for my baby. Gone are the days of simply running to the local market, located a few miles from my house, to pick up the formula. Instead, I have to spend about six hours finding the special formula my daughter needs.

The recent shortage of formula has caused a significant crisis for me as a mother and baby. My youngest daughter was born with serious health problems 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 that was ruled out early, and extraction was stopped about two months after she was born. She was put on a special formula to help with her nutritional support and reflux issues. It’s been a long road, and even now, a year later, we have therapy twice a week. She’s small for 13 months and weighs what most babies half her age do. The need for extra nutritional support kept her on formula longer than most of her age. The extra nutrient-based formula has been hard to come by.

A few weeks ago, I’d been to two cities before meeting him. Still, on this recent Thursday afternoon, I traveled to every major formula retailer I could find in four different cities. The simple math here lets me know that scarcity is becoming a more significant issue with each passing week. I was starting to lose hope and worry about how much gas money I would still lose before I found any. Most shelves were empty in every store I walked into, proving that I wasn’t the only mother trying to help her baby survive this formula shortage crisis.

Finally, I laid eyes on his can of formula at the first store I stopped at in the fourth city. However, below the formula was a neatly typed sign stating that I was limited to buying just three per visit due to shortages. 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 into anxiety mode:

“How far will I have to travel to find more?”

“What if I can’t find him?”

These questions worry me as a parent and trigger a small range of panicky emotions. This made me look for alternatives to infant formula, if none. Can I buy breast milk at donation centers? Is goat’s milk acceptable to give to a baby in place of formula? I spend my time researching these things, things I never imagined exploring. She’s my fourth child, and I’ve never had to worry about finding formula to feed one of them until now.

Unfortunately, my typical Thursday afternoon of baby formula shopping is a reality for many parents with newborns now. Worrying about the next time they need more formula. How long can it take for 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 send or hand-deliver the formula if necessary. Knowing that you can’t wait until the baby is close to ending, because you’re not sure you can find it any faster. I am constantly asking my husband how much formula we have at least twice a day because I worry about going too short before I shop again. All of these are now everyday concerns and aggravating problems for new parents.

As I type this, I gave my daughter a bottle and enjoyed her falling asleep in my arms. Innocent to the crisis around how to get more formula for your survival. She rests in peace, and I worry because that’s what we mothers do. I’m determined to do everything possible to keep her formula in my pantry. However, the “what ifs” still plague me. I’m not sure I’ll see the end of the formula shortage anytime soon. Hope looks pretty bleak at this point, and now it’s just survival mode. I’m surviving another week, surviving one more can of formula, and surviving one more bottle. Trying not to let panic set in and hoping to find what I need to feed my baby. Sometimes I can’t understand that I have to worry about this in our current world times.

To all the parents struggling with the formula shortage crisis with me, I see you, and we will get through this. I hope it ends sooner or later.

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