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Roanoke mom shares infant formula shortage struggle

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 6:57 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke mom is giving us some insight into just how stressful the infant formula shortage has become. Although formula maker Abbott says it has reached a deal to resume production at its troubled Michigan plant, it will take two months to have an effect.

“It is very stressful just not knowing what the solution is to help these families, including ours,” said Melissa Newman.

Newman is a mom to two, including 10-month-old Sawyer. Born with a few health concerns, Newman learned her little one would need a very specific type of amino acid-based formula and a higher calorie diet than most babies. The cans typically cost $48 to $50 each and will last three to three and a half days. She orders them through a medical supply company.

“In December when I went to place an order, they were like, actually this is on back order,” she said. “And I was like, Oh no, what am I supposed to do?”

Newman said she kept asking the medical supply company she orders from until she got her shipment.

Then the recall hit in February and families rushed to buy her brand as a suitable equivalent.

At one point, she dropped to just a week’s supply.

“The mental and emotional strain that it has caused is something I would not wish on anyone,” she said.

Newman called her doctors who helped get some samples. Then she took to Facebook with her plea and realized she wasn’t alone.

“I had so many people reach out,” she said. “Some saying, I had no idea this was happening. And some saying, yes, I am struggling to find this.”

Now she believes the situation has become worse with panic buying, comparing it to the 2020 toilet paper shortage.

“People got panicked and they overbought things and it just created a harder time for people who really needed things,” she said, “and I think in this case too we need to be cautious and not panic buy.”

She says it took a village to help fill Sawyer’s belly as he begins his transition to solid foods.

“I actually had a friend from Vermont ship me some formula, so that was very nice,” she said. “I’m very blessed to have a lot of people looking out for our crew.”

Newman said she’s grateful she has the time and resources to make calls and emails.

She worries for families who don’t have those same tools.

“It is just a very scary situation,” she said.

Newman said she has some real concerns about the limitations of the formula industry, wishing it was more diversified to help relieve the stress on the supply chain of so vital a product.

”It makes formula expensive, it makes it hard to get to. And then when things like this happen it just creates a very tight supply chain.”

In the meantime, the USDA is reminding families about some do’s and don’ts when it comes to making sure your baby is properly fed.

The agency is also recommending all states issue waivers to help increase access to WIC families. Currently, Virginia is issuing all recommended waivers.

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