A national baby formula shortage has parents on edge.
“We’ve absolutely experienced the trends of COVID panic-buying where our clients are having a really difficult time finding formula in the stores. Additionally, they are limited as to how much formula they can purchase at a time,” explained Cami Statlar, Executive Director of Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County.
The local organization is monitoring retail trends to make sure they have enough baby formula in stock to continue to provide free formula to families in need.
“We buy formula in bulk, so we were lucky that when the pandemic hit to have a stock in house,” Statlar said. “We are supported through a grant that we get through the City of San Luis Obispo.”
“We purchase our formula either online or in stores [like] Costco, Target when it’s on sale,” she added.
“There are certain formulas that are more difficult to find at stores,” said Flora Bolivar, Office Manager at Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County.
High demand is not the only problem. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, parents spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 in infant formula during the child’s first year.
“It’s not just the issue about being out of formula at the stores, but we see an increase in people struggling economically. They don’t have access to formula,” said Brenda Gonzalez, Family Resource Specialist at Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County.
Rain or shine, this non-profit provides free products, including baby formula, to hundreds of families each year
Carolina Gallegos said she found this organization 19 years ago with her first child. She comes once a month with her baby and is grateful that she does not have to worry about looking for formula because it is provided to her by Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County.
“Product supply challenges are currently impacting most of the retail industry,” said Monica Prinzing, Corporate Communications Senior Manager for CVS Health. “We’re continuing to work with our national brand baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience that our customers may be experiencing.”
Dr. René Bravo, pediatrician with Bravo Pediatrics, said it seems like there is still a good local supply of baby formula compared to other areas.
“It is important that parents do not panic, first of all, because the shortage will be made worse by hoarding and stockpiling behaviors that happen when people get concerned,” he said.
Dr. Bravo recommends looking into other options.
“There are alternatives. Breastfeeding is the one we recommend the most, but if you are in a situation where you supplement with formula or you use formula exclusively, be open to using alternative formulas,” he added.
Dr. Bravo said that parents should ask themselves two key questions.
“Is it going to be a soy-based formula or a cow’s milk formula and in terms of going from there, talk to your pediatrician to get advice as to what are your specific child’s need,” he said.
For families struggling to access baby formula, parents can reach out to Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County at (805) 541-3367 to receive free bilingual services.
For those interested in giving back, the organization is accepting gently used clothes, toys and unopened, unused baby formula donations.