Seeing empty shelves at Central Coast pharmacies and stores is becoming more and more common.
“We do have a few parents who already reached out to our office they were on a special formula, they were out, they went to almost every store possible and couldn’t get that,” said Dr. Abhishek Mehta, Lompoc Valley Medical Center’s Pediatrician. “In a situation like that, we have asked them to call the nearby stores beyond Lompoc to call and ask if they can get the substitute of that formula.”
Yesmibel Echezuria has a 10 month-old baby who is teething and all she wants is fluids.
Echezuria said she buys two cans and she is out within two weeks. She is worried about supply issues and more so price gouging.
Three months ago, we stopped by Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County to see how their supply was impacted since they provide free goods to local families.
“A more dramatic change in formula not being available in stores, specifically specialized formula, is very difficult to get,” explained Cami Statler, Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County’s executive director. “Additionally, we are putting a limit on how much a family can purchase at one time, which absolutely impacts us because we tend to buy our formula in bulk.”
Even the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department has been affected.
“For our WIC families, we are seeing an impact,” said in a statement Jane Boone-Brechwald, WIC Director for the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department. “The recent 2022 Abbott recall of certain powdered formulas has led to periodic shortages of major brands of formula.”
“The infant formula shortage is really just a storm of many different things: the pandemic, the closure of the Abbott factory in Michigan and then supply chain issues,” said Dr. René Bravo, a pediatrician at Bravo Pediatrics.
The Biden Administration is taking steps to address this nationwide shortage.
“These steps include cutting red tape to get more infant formula to store shelves, quicker by urging states to provide consumers flexibility on the types of formula they can buy with WIC dollars,” announced White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “Calling on the FTC and state attorney’s general to crack down on any price gouging or unfair market practices.”
In order to deal with the high demand and low supply, stores and pharmacies are putting limits on the number of cans a person can purchase.
“Following supplier challenges and increased customer demand, we currently have a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in our stores and online,” said in a statement Monica Prinzing, the Western Region Corporate Communications Senior Manager for CVS. “We’re continuing to work with our baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience this causes our customers.”
There are some options available for families who are struggling.
“If your baby is under breastfeeding that is probably the best thing and you should continue that,” said Dr. Mehta. “If your baby is taking any kind of formula from the beginning especially babies under six months of age then, do not replace it with any homemade or any other products.”
Experts are asking parents to stay away from watering down their formula or creating their own.
“Formulas are very specifically formulated with certain proteins, nutrients or electrolytes that protect the baby and to create your own formula or to follow recipes that are unproven can be dangerous,” explained Dr. Bravo.
Because of supply issues, it is recommended to stay open-minded to other formula brands.
“If your child is closer to one year of age there may be other alternatives other than infant formula, toddler formulas for example or even whole cow’s milk close to one year of age could be acceptable but again, it is important to talk to your pediatrician,” suggested Dr. Bravo.
Doctors ask community members to not stock up for more than two weeks of supply.
“The human behavior has changed, and they end up panicking more and start storing even more formula, which ends up hurting the other babies because other babies might be needing it,” said Dr. Mehta.
Regardless of WIC eligibility, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department said they have registered dietitians who specialize in infant nutrition. Those interested can call (805) 781-5570.
Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County has a supply of baby formula to support struggling parents. Services are offered in both English and Spanish. For assistance, those interested can reach out to 805-541-3367.