Michigan parents are still struggling to find infant formula due to a massive national shortage that has lasted nearly four months.
The federal government has tried to alleviate the problem by importing supplies and working with a closed formula factory in Michigan to restart production, but the FDA chief warns it will still take time to get the formula back on the shelves. shelves.
Low-income families and parents of immunocompromised children are the most affected.
Each week, AnnaLia Bynes teams up with her mother, Joey-L Gomez, to go from store to store in the middle of Michigan in search of formula for her eight-month-old son Maliki.
Maliki was born several weeks earlier. He also has Down’s Syndrome and needs a special kind of formula with extra nutrients to help his brain grow.
“With kids with Down’s syndrome or similar, in terms of development, it’s really a good formula for development. Kids like that, who’ve been in NICU or something like that,” Bynes explained.
Bynes is feeling the effects of the nationwide formula shortage since a mass recall of formulas and the closure of the Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Michigan. The manufacturer, which accounts for a large share of formula production in the United States, halted production at its plant in February due to potential contamination that could have killed two babies.
And the rising gas prices aren’t helping either. Gomez, who works two jobs, said last month she drove more than an hour to a Meijer supermarket outside Detroit to find a box of formula for her grandson. A box of Maliki formula lasts just over a week.
“I went to the Brighton Meijer and I went to the Ann Arbor Meijer, and they were both out of stock. So, I did this trip in the rain, and it was really bad on the highway” , Gomez said.
Bynes participates in a government food aid program called Women Infants and Children, or WIC. It provides low-income parents with funds for formula milk. While the state has expanded the list of formulas covered by WIC since the shortage, the family says they still had to pay out of pocket for several cans. Gomez says it’s a stressful experience having to find different brands.
“I was like, really stressed last week. And then when I got the Meijer mark, I was like, ‘Well, that’s going to hold for a little while. But like I said, we’re on our last box of that one,” she said.
I was really stressed last week. And then when I got the Meijer brand, I thought, well, this will hold up for a little while. But like I said, we’re down to our last can today.
Anne Devitto, a dietician in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Sparrow Hospital, helps parents like Bynes find the right formula for their baby.
“I help parents a lot to negotiate…by going to sites like storebrandformula.com and I always look at the grocery stores I go to to see what’s on the shelves,” she said.
Devitto says low-income parents, babies with food allergies and premature babies are hit hardest by the shortage.
“I get a lot of messages from panicked parents saying, ‘How is my baby going to get home? I can’t, you know, we have this formula here, but I can’t find it in the store’ , she said.
Since the shortage, Devitto has spent most of his working day helping parents find the formula they need.
“I’ve personally pulled strings with some infant formula suppliers to get formulas delivered, especially very specialized formulas for babies who are immunocompromised, on WIC, and/or have allergies,” Devitto explained.
Facebook is another place where Devitto says she sees parents turning to formula.
Personally, I’ve pulled strings with some infant formula suppliers to get formula delivered, especially those really specialized formulas for WIC-immunocompromised babies and/or babies with allergies.
Anne Devitto, Sparrow Health System Dietician
“There are a lot of families saying, ‘Hey, I got this formula in the mail, it’s not part of the recall. Pickup from the porch,'” she said. “So there’s a lot of sharing of resources between different communities. It’s been very helpful. But it’s still a struggle.”
During a US Senate hearing last month, FDA Director Dr. Robert Califf said he was doing everything he could to ensure formula milk reached families in need.
“Personally, I was driven by memories of the month my daughter spent in the intensive care unit as a baby, and the deep concern and anxiety of a parent determined to protect a child. innocent,” Califf said during the May hearing.
As the Abbott formula factory in Sturgis reopened last weekend, Dr Califf predicted it will take a few months for the formula to become more readily available.
Meanwhile, Maliki’s pediatrician says he can begin his transition to solid foods, which would give his mother and grandmother some respite from the weekly hunt for formula.