“The uncertainty about whether my baby will have food is so scary”
“Since we were breastfeeding, we hadn’t even thought about formula until we had no other choice,” she said. “After his appointment, I ran around for hours and felt devastated when I found nothing. Her pediatrician didn’t even have a sample canister for us.
Harrison visited more than 20 stores within an hour’s drive of her home in Kettering and found only one box of off-brand hypoallergenic, which she said could last four days.
“Every morning before work I check the stores to see if it’s been restocked, only to find it’s been out of stock for months now. They order it and it never shows up on the truck. It is not available on Amazon and the Enfamil website,” she said. “The uncertainty about whether my baby will get food is so scary.”
The head of the Food and Drug Administration told lawmakers on Thursday that a shuttered infant formula plant could be operational as early as next week, though he avoided questioning whether his agency should have stepped in sooner to resolve the issues. factory problems that triggered the national shortage.
The problems are largely related to Abbott Nutrition’s formula factory in Michigan, the largest in the United States, which has been closed since February due to contamination concerns. The FDA announced a preliminary agreement with Abbott earlier this week to restart production, pending safety upgrades and certifications.
After production resumes, Abbott said, it could take about two months before the new formula starts hitting stores. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said it will take “a few weeks” before supplies return to normal levels, especially in rural areas that are not close to distribution centers.
Breastfeeding, although recommended for babies under six months old, is not an option for everyone. Many mothers struggle to produce milk or cannot produce enough to feed their babies, said Kenzie Engle, a family nurse practitioner at Rocking Horse Health Center in Springfield. Sometimes mothers also take medicine that can make breast milk harmful to the infant, and the use of formula milk is necessary for the health of the baby.
Ingram said her milk never arrived, due to medications she had to take in the past, and said many other mothers she spoke to in mother support groups on social media had the same problem.
“It makes you feel bad, because you can’t do what nature wants you to do,” Ingram said. “And it’s frustrating: I really wish I could do that!”
Many mothers also work to support their families financially and cannot express their own milk multiple times a day, Engle said. She added that many parents adopt their children and do not produce breast milk, and many grandparents also take care of their infant grandchildren without the baby’s mother being in the picture.
“I was lucky enough to breastfeed for two months, but it took a lot of hard work and determination,” Harrison said. “It took a lot out of me mentally and physically. So telling mums to just breastfeed is not a fair solution to this problem.
Engle said she has seen many people shaming mothers for using formula.
“It’s stressful enough having a newborn in the house,” Engle said. “And it’s just added stress and guilt that weighs on the mother.”
Verlee Langston, head of the pediatric clinical team at Rocking Horse, said patients at the health center sometimes receive formula samples if mothers “run out” of WIC or switch formula types.
The Ohio Department of Health said Wednesday it has applied for federal waivers to give mothers more choices when selecting infant formula through the additional assistance for women, infants and children. , more commonly referred to as WIC.
The federal program helps mothers and children get nutritious foods and protects their health, and provides education and resources about formula and breastfeeding, but the program often comes with strict guidelines that state which brand and how much formula a mother can buy at a time.
Jorge Magana, WIC program manager in Greene County, says formulas are chosen based on each infant’s needs.
“Many have complex medical needs. Some need prescription formulas,” he said. “If for some reason they can’t find this formula, we work with a health care provider to provide another one.”
Stephanie Sager of Beavercreek, who participates in the program, says her 11-month-old daughter Amelia is transitioning to eating solid foods and doesn’t have to rely on formula. Sager says she is lucky.
“You can only buy it at certain stores, and you can only buy a certain type of formula and a certain size,” she said. “You would think that with a shortage they would allow you to get other brands available.”
The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill to improve access to infant formula, and President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to order formula ingredient suppliers to give the priority in delivery to manufacturers. The FDA also relaxed its rules this week to allow for increased imports of formulas.
The shortages were first observed in prescription formulas, but the problem has now spread to almost all formulas. Months of one-off shortages at pharmacies and supermarkets have been exacerbated by the recall at Abbott, one of four companies that produce around 90% of the US formula. Abbott’s brands account for almost half of this market. The company closed its largest formula manufacturing plant in the United States in February due to contamination.