June 07, 2023

The wait for formula

Nationwide baby formula outages continue to cause problems for parents

The once innocent sound of the scoop scraping the bottom of a can of formula now triggers a mother’s fears that her baby may not have food tomorrow.

What started in February as a recall of Simliac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered formula products spiraled into a product shortage that has left grocery stores and parents out of options.

For young mom Rayven Shields and her 6-month-old son, Wesley, the shortage has had a major impact their lives. “At the beginning, his formula got recalled,” Shields said. “It wasn’t anywhere. We had to switch his food because he had nothing to eat.”

In the end of April, CNN and USA Today reported the state of Iowa having an outage of more than half of the baby formula products - one of the worst in the nation. “It’s probably just started within the last month that I’ve had issues getting any kind of formula in,” said Lori Myer, Assistant Manager of Perishables at Hy-Vee in Creston. “I order twice a week. For a week, I got a little bit, but it was being sold as fast as I could get it in.”

Shields said they had checked Hy-Vee and Walmart in Creston and Osceola. “We were out of formula and no one had any.” She recalls that it was late in the day - too late to reach out to her doctor for advice.

Switching his food was the scariest moment for his first-time mom. She said her doctor was the one who originally told them what food to put Wesley on, so she didn’t know how to determine which kind to use.

“It was dangerous to do,” Shields said. “He ended up getting really bad indigestion which led to a diaper rash from the new formula.” The general guideline for introducing baby food to an infant is 6 months, but Shields ended up having to do so when he was only 4 months old.

Wesley had been on the Similac formula that was originally recalled. “We make our own baby food now,” Shields said. “It’s scary. Our babies were poisoned.”

While Shields is now typically able to find Wesley’s formula, she can only get it a few cans at a time which has been nerve wracking since she lives in Afton and can’t get any in town.

Myer estimates that Hy-Vee only has about 15% of its typical formula stock. “It’s sad,” she said. “Right now we have a sale on infant formula, but we have nothing on the shelf. I can’t even make it look like I have anything.”

Hy-Vee hasn’t been able to get any formula in stock in the past three weeks outside of a pre-order that was submitted and shipped more than a month ago.

Myer says she hopes the shortage ends soon. “I know when my kids were little, that’s what I used. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t get formula.” Myer knows of someone from Mount Ayr who has had to turn to a private sale from someone on the East Coast to get her baby’s formula.

Hy-Vee’s incoming Thursday shipment of formula has already been cancelled by suppliers meaning another week for mothers searching for their product.

“If I were to get formula in, I would broadcast it,” Myer said. “I would post it everywhere and make it very obvious. I keep hoping that day will come soon.”