For some parents in the U.S, a nightmare would be going to stores to buy formula for their baby(ies) but cannot, not because they can’t afford to, but because there is no formula available.
‘Not available’ in the sense of —you can’t come back some hours later or the next day or try another store even. There is simply no formula available in stores.
I came across this story a few days ago on Instagram, and the first thing that came to my mind was, “how in heaven’s name is there a formula shortage?” If there are no formulas, wouldn’t the ideal thing be to produce more?”
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Well, these were my first thoughts upon reading stories after stories, but after doing some research I found some reasons why this might not be feasible.
Let’s take a look at some of these reasons:
#1. Small number of manufacturers/facilities: According to this source, there are only five approved infant formula manufacturers in the U.S. Infant formula facilities must be FDA-registered and inspected annually to ensure compliance with very specific, strict food safety protocols.
#2. Supply chain challenges: Just like parents are having trouble finding formula at stores, manufacturers are also experiencing ingredient shortages due to supply chain delays and global upheaval.
#3. Manufacturing time frame: it takes 6-8 weeks to produce a new batch of formula from beginning to shelf. This accounts for sourcing, manufacturing appropriate safety testing, shipping, and stocking.
What all of these mean is that there’s a higher cost to pay if unsafe formulas find their ways to store shelves. We are talking about infant illness, hospitalisation, and even death.
"Reach out to a mom, check on how they are doing and ask if they need help. Now, more than ever, moms need an actual village and the support of other moms in her village."
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While so many debates are ongoing on this issue, there is a more popular perspective going around which is: ‘Mothers’ being advised to just breastfeed their babies!
Anyone can say just breastfeed, but as a mom, I understand how ‘just breastfeed the baby’ may not be a sustainable solution, especially for everyone.
People assume breastfeeding isn’t a big deal, I mean, you already have breasts, right? But what if I told you, it is a big deal because there are moms who actually struggle just to produce enough milk to breastfeed their little one, so, it doesn’t “naturally” happen or isn’t that simple for every mother.
"What all of these mean is that there’s a higher cost to pay if unsafe formulas find their ways to store shelves. We are talking about infant illness, hospitalisation, and even death."
I remember how I struggled to breastfeed my daughter in the first few days and the guilt that lived with me knowing she couldn’t count on me to do the most “natural” thing, which was to feed her, and then resorting to formula feeding after my doctor advised it was the best since I wasn’t producing yet.
This struggle with breastfeeding isn’t just mine, there are thousands of women who want to breastfeed but can’t, and this unbearable experience has made them resort to formula. I hope you can understand how difficult it is for these parents right now, especially mothers who feel it’s their sole responsibility to get their little ones fed and healthy. So, while the formula may not be what WHO recommends, especially in the first six months of a baby’s life, most mothers count on it to help get their babies fed, and I am all for a fed baby, whether breast-fed or formula-fed.
So, if you are a struggling mom trying to get your hands on a formula in these trying times, here are some tips I believe you would find helpful.
#1. It is safe to switch brands. If you can’t find your baby’s brand, you can opt for another available brand with the same ingredients contained in the former formula brand. Of course, always consult with your paediatrician if you have any questions.
#2. Buy online outside of the U.S and ship to your state of residence. There are mothers who have testified to buying from Canada since this shortage is just within the U.S.
#4. Reach out to your ‘Mom’ friends or acquaintances if they have extra to give away or sell. You can reach out to moms in your circle or even your friends or relatives who may have extra formulas they have stocked to give (donate) or sell to you.
#5. Join mom groups to ask or find out where you can find formulas in your area. Motherhood groups and communities are very resourceful at this time, and chances are you will find moms with beneficial information.
Here are ways you can help as a mom:
#1. This is not a time to have the ‘try breastfeeding’ conversation. Understand that not every mom can breastfeed due to different reasons. You can encourage them to keep their faith and have hope that the situation will get better.
#2. Reach out to a mom, check on how they are doing and ask if they need help. Now, more than ever, moms need an actual village and the support of other moms in her village.
#3. Pump and donate a free bottle. If you are breastfeeding and can pump an extra for a mom around you, this would truly be appreciated.
Our thoughts are with moms trying to get by at this time. We also hope that these tips have been helpful too. Hang in there, mama, this too shall pass.
Mrs. Chidimma Juliet Oladipupo is a mother of two, social media strategist and content creator with a bachelor's degree in Sociology. She is passionate about using social media for good, getting her voice heard and connecting with others.
She is the founder of THE MOM CONVERSATION® —a motherhood
blog on Instagram dedicated to highlighting the truth and realities of motherhood. It's also a space she holds conversations and inspires mothers to share their true stories and journeys about motherhood without filters.
When Chidimma is not writing, researching, reading or creating contents for brands and businesses, she spends time with her kids, brainstorming, bouncing off ideas or have random conversations with her husband.