OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The nationwide baby formula shortage is still ongoing, and it continues to be a source of stress for many families in the Kansas City metro.
Many are scrambling to find alternatives in feeding their infants the necessary nutrients.
“I just want to thank the woman who donated to me,” said Anna Simmons, who is still breastfeeding her youngest, Vivian.
Simmons recently underwent surgery to remove her appendix, and her body was not producing enough breast milk during recovery. She had a month's supply she pumped ahead of time, but it all went to waste after the freezer door was left open by accident.
“I cried about ten times that day. And it sounds silly to cry over breast milk, but I mean, I worked so hard for that. I pumped an hour and a half every day,” Simmons said. “When I lost everything, I was distraught, to say the least.”
Her preference has always been to strictly breastfeed, but amid the baby formula shortage and price gouging, that was barely an option. She then turned to a Facebook group of moms struggling with the same situation and fortunately found a kind neighbor who donated over 200 ounces of breast milk.
Simmons says a network of moms are scrambling lately, letting each other know when the shelves are even somewhat filled. Others are sharing their surplus of breast milk or donating leftover formula.
It is a risk she says many are willing to take during these hard times.
“It can be kind of scary also saying, 'Hey, can I have that can of formula that I know might be open, but I need it for my baby?' Or 'Hey can I use some of your breast milk?'” Simmons said. “It’s just not okay. There should not be a shortage anymore.”
Urgent care pediatrician Dr. Thuylinh Pham says this shortage is especially difficult because one size fits all does not apply to baby formula.
“Everything is so specialized. Some babies can’t tolerate certain types of formula, and some babies need special nutrition, especially our premature babies and babies with complex medical problems,” Pham said.
The first thing Pham advises parents to do is check what type of formula their child is on and see if there are any store brands or alternative brands they can move to.
“There’s [a] lot of charts out there that will show you what is compatible with the formula that you’ve been on,” Pham said.
Second, parents should consult their child’s pediatrician as there is newer guidance on what to do if there are simply no other alternatives available for their kid.
“But those should be very temporary and not longer than one or two weeks and under the guidance of their physician to make sure they don’t end up with complications such as anemia and low iron levels,” Pham said.
To help combat the shortage, the federal government is continuing to allow families that use WIC to purchase substitutes for their regular formula through the end of the year. That flexibility was set to expire at the end of September.