Families feel the shortage of infant formula

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It was around Christmas that Brook Blankenship first noticed a scarcity in the supply of infant formula.

“It was pretty hard to find sometimes,” Blankenship, 21, of Coeur d’Alene said Thursday. “There were only a few cans on the shelves. Now the stores are completely empty when I go there.”

Blankenship’s first child, Harlynn, is 11 months old and will soon be giving up formula.

However, baby No. 2 is due in August and the Blankenship family will once again have to deal with the shortage of infant formula, which has worsened in recent months and is now at a critical level.

“It’s been a whirlwind having a baby in the middle of the pandemic and now in the middle of a formula shortage,” Blankenship said. “I hope to breastfeed.”

According to the Associated Press, supply disruptions and a massive safety recall by US infant formula maker Abbott have contributed to declining inventories.

Abbott, one of the nation’s largest infant formula makers, recalled all potentially affected products made at its Michigan plant after reports of bacterial contamination and the hospitalization of infants who consumed the formula, including one who died.

The Food and Drug Administration said one of the cases involved salmonella and three involved Cronobacter sakazakiim, a rare but dangerous germ that can cause bloodstream infections and other complications. The recall affected Similac, Alimentum and EleCare with expiration dates of April 1 or later. The product has been distributed in the United States and abroad.

To conserve supplies, major retailers such as CVS and Walgreens limit the number of prep containers that can be purchased at one time. The Food and Drug Administration is even considering importing infant formula to increase the supply.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Post Falls mother Danielle St. Pierre, whose youngest son, Myles, just turned 1.

“We’re blessed that Myles is almost ready to switch to whole milk, but that hasn’t left us immune to shortages,” she said. “I woke up early and went to the stores in the wee hours of the morning to find his formula in hopes that they would stock up in the middle of the night, often going to four or more stores to get my hands out. empty.”

St. Pierre, who works for a big-box retailer, said she was lucky to have a strong support group. She gets text messages from loved ones who see formula when they shop at local stores.

“I’ve cried at work watching people have multiple people with them so they can each get the ‘limit’ just so they can maybe feed their little ones for the amount of time until ‘They don’t find him,’ St. Pierre said. “A lot of moms give up because it’s hard and they don’t have the resources or the support to find the strength to keep going.”

Hayden Super 1 Foods store manager Brian Howell confirmed the reality of the shortage in a telephone interview with the press on Friday. He said that Super 1 does not limit formula inventory because it does not receive any.

“We have been advised that we will not see supplies until June, in February,” he said. “There was nothing. There are no other sources. That’s why it’s so scary.”

The store offers specialty formulas, but nothing that average families would need.

“Regular Similac, Good Start, you’re not going to get it,” he said.

Normally, if Super 1 runs out of something, store associates will let customers know where to find it elsewhere in the community.

This is not a possibility for infant formula.

“Everybody’s in the same boat,” Howell said. “If it’s like anything else, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Formula milk is used as a supplement or alternative to natural breast milk.

According to similac.com, its baby formula contains protein, lipids and fatty acids, carbohydrates and non-breastmilk derived oligosaccharide prebiotics, carotenoids, vitamins and minerals.

Most formulas contain cow’s milk protein that has been modified to aid digestion and fortified with additional nutrients necessary for growth and development. The Food and Drug Administration sets specific nutritional requirements, including minimum amounts of protein, fat, calcium, and a number of vitamins. Formula makers achieve these levels by adding various sugars, oils and minerals, according to The Associated Press.

Panhandle Health communications manager Katherine Hoyer said the Idaho Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program has increased formula options available to WIC participants, who can now purchase substitute formulas from approved WIC providers. .

“Formula supply issues are currently a national issue and Idaho is no exception,” she said. “Unfortunately, WIC does not have a separate supply of formula that we are able to give our participants. We are at the mercy of what is available at the store. In Idaho, we have found that rural areas are harder hit by formula shortages than urban areas, but all stores are struggling to keep stock on the shelves.”

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