Weeks into the crisis over the infant formula shortage, it seems as if emergency measures to make up the shortfall are announced with regularity. And still, the grocery store aisles in Macon, Georgia – the small city where I live and buy my newborn’s formula – are as empty as ever.
The birth of my baby three months ago should have been one of the happiest times of my life. Instead, the months that have followed the arrival of my daughter, Berlin, have been filled with anxiety, as I struggle each day to figure out how I will feed her.
People often tell moms like me that we should just breastfeed – as if the solution were always that simple.
When I get down to just a couple of days’ supply of formula, it’s hard not to panic. I’ve taken to saving half-full bottles after Berlin finishes feeding because I don’t dare waste a drop of formula. Fortunately, I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve completely run out, but there have been a few times when I’ve come close. On top of wildly fluctuating postpartum emotions, the stress from the shortage formula has made the past three months unbelievably challenging.
Back in March, when Berlin was born, the infant formula supply shortage had just fled. I could generally find infant formula without too much difficulty, and I could readily stock up on what I needed. But as the weeks have gone by, it’s gotten harder and harder. And right now, quite honestly, is the worst it’s ever been.
When I go to the grocery store at 8 am each day, there are already dozens of other frantic mothers scanning the shelves in search of their baby’s formula brand. I have had to learn which days my local store gets its shipments and I try to show up on those days. If I arrive later than noon, I can be certain that the shelves will be empty.
Social media has been a big help: Some moms post on Facebook when they’ve found a formula at a store to alert other mothers, who know to drop everything and come running. If you hear that there is a formula at a given store, you have to act fast. Once, I went out to the various stores in my community looking for formula almost every day for a week and came home empty-handed each time. I ended up having to get some formula from another mom in a local Facebook group.
A 12.5 ounce can of powder formula that I mix with water for Berlin’s feedings lasts just a few days, and she will go through those cans more quickly as she gets bigger and develops a bigger appetite, making the shortage issue more worrisome the longer it goes he. I’ve found multiple mothers reselling baby formula on Facebook, many of whom inflate the price from $ 17 to $ 25. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a position not to have to support that behavior, but know many moms who have run out of options and pay the higher prices from resellers.
But I’m also disappointed that our government wasn’t better prepared to protect the most vulnerable people in our country. We should have never allowed just four corporations to control such a big share of the market for baby formula, making the health and well-being of our children secondary to corporate profits.
Even when the current crisis is over, the bigger problem will remain and shortages like this will happen again. This terrible system needs to be overhauled. Unfortunately for me, change will not happen until long after Berlin is weaned.
This crisis has robbed me of one of the most blessed times a mother has with her child, holding her, rocking her, comforting her, knowing that my beautiful precious baby is in my loving care, and that I will protect her from all harm.
Because of this shortage in baby formula, I cannot be sure at this point that I can protect her from the hunger. In this country of prosperity and plenty, that’s truly a national scandal.