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Utah families are feeling the baby formula shortage. Here are a few tips

Baby formula shortage-2, Smith's Market in Salt Lake City, May 12, 2022
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
Smith’s Marketplace in Salt Lake City, like other grocers nationwide, is limiting the amount of formulas people can buy, May 12, 2022.

Alexandra Gomez pushes her grocery store cart through the baby aisle at Smith’s Marketplace in Salt Lake City. She’s eight months pregnant with a swollen belly.

Gomez has already been to three other grocery stores today and hasn’t had much luck finding the baby formula she was recommended. The shelves here are mostly empty and that has her worried ahead of her delivery date next month.

“They usually just advise us to breastfeed, but I'm not really sure if I'm going to have breast milk,” she said. “So I'm really concerned right now. I'm stocking up before my baby comes out.”

In the end, Gomez was only able to find one can of the formula she came for. Some stores, like Smiths, have begun to limit supplies.

That’s due to a supply chain issue that goes back to the start of the pandemic and a voluntary recall from the Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Michigan. The recall was caused by concerns of bacteria contamination at the facility after several infants fell ill and two died.

Earlier this week, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, called out the FDA’s lack of action on the issue via Twitter.

Erika Gee, downtown pantry assistant manager for Crossroads Urban Center, said they are doing pretty well with basic formulas but it’s the specialty kind they’ve been lacking.

She said those who are most impacted are often low-income.

“When these shortages impact people, they're impacting the most vulnerable too, who often can't afford many things,” Gee said. “...So having to pay more to get formulas that's already not accessible is going to be really damaging.”

Miranda Reynolds, dietitian and health program coordinator at Utah Women, Infants and Children, said she strongly cautions families against giving their babies homemade formulas like goat or cow’s milk. WIC helps low-income families pay for formulas.

“These solutions are not very healthy for your infant, depending on where they are in their development, the babies might lack the gastrointestinal maturity to fully digest these things,” Reynolds said. “They lack proper nutrition, which could lead to illness and there could be unintentional contamination during that as well.”

She suggests talking to a pediatrician about the best recommendations, shopping earlier in the day, calling the formula manufacturer or going to a local food bank or breast milk bank. Reynolds said women should also use WIC’s many resources.

“Just look out for each other if there's family or friends that have seen formulas that they know someone needs, just let them know,” she said. “And hopefully we can all work together as a community to help out these moms.”

Some have gathered online and created Facebook groups to help get babies the formula they need.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he’s taking steps to “get infant formula onto store shelves as quickly as possible without compromising safety.” They include increasing supplies through increased ports, cracking down on price gouging and cutting through red tape.

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