DENVER — Parenting an infant is already stressful -- add on a nationwide shortage of baby formula and Colorado parents say the anxiety triples.
"My entire family just goes and finds the formula when we they can," said Ashlee Lane, the mother of a 7-month-old. "My sister picked me up some in Arvada yesterday, my dad up in Thornton the other day."
For Lane, finding formula has become a family affair as shortages continue across the country.
"There was nothing left on the entire shelf... I took a picture and sent it home. I was like, "Thank goodness we have a couple cans left,"" the mother said of her recent trip to the grocery store.
On Monday, the FDA detailed its plan to work with U.S. manufacturers to boost production of baby formula and deliver it to regions with the most critical need.
The formula shortage first emerged during the pandemic when supply chain disruptions took a stronghold on various manufacturers. The problem was exacerbated by the recall of some Abbott Nutrition baby formulas.
"I always try and grab one or two [cans of formula] when I go in the store because I don't want to wipe the shelves," Lane said.
She is now one of countless mothers across the state anxious for relief from the scarcity.
"We have mothers offering, and then we also have mothers that are searching for formula," Kelsea Perez said of her Facebook group, Moms Helping Moms - Denver Metro Areas - CO.
Perez says there are daily messages from parents trying to find their child's next meal.
"For example, this post, they've gone to four different stores and have not been able to find anything," she said.
During times like these, Perez says she's grateful her son is now a toddler.
"I'm so glad and so lucky that I don't have to worry about this," she said. "[My son] was on a special formula that was hard to find. It was hard to find on its own, and I can't imagine today if you're trying to find it."
Laura-Anne Cleveland, associate chief nursing officer of Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, says there are some important tips for parents as they navigate this time. She says mothers should never dilute their formula or use homemade formula recipes posted online.
"Homemade formulas are really unsafe. Diluting formula takes out the ratio of nutrients that the child gets. So you're really shorting them on nutrition," Cleveland said. "Additionally on social media ... I think there's some well-intentioned people out there, but they're either selling formula or giving away formula that they had on their shelf. I really would caution against that, again, because you don't know how it's been stored. You don't know if anything has been added to it."
Here are the safe options, according to Cleveland.
"The big thing is to know that it's okay to alter what formula you have. The biggest thing is if you look on the back [label], it's important to look to see what your current formula carbohydrates and proteins are and match that with whatever formula you are choosing to go to," she said.
Parents can also look to the Mothers' Milk Bank. The nonprofit screens and provides human milk.
"When people donate to agencies like Mothers' Milk Bank, they are testing everything to make sure that the milk is safe for the child," Cleveland said.
Major retailers told Denver7 the shortage of infant formula had resulted in limitations for purchases.
A spokesperson for CVS said, “Following supplier challenges and increased customer demand, we currently have a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in our stores and online. We’re continuing to work with our baby formula vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience this causes our customers.”
Walgreens shared a similar policy, “Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country. Similar to other retailers, we put into effect purchase limits of three per transaction on all infant and toddler formula to help improve inventory. We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.”
Big-box retailer Target said they are placing limit baby formula purchases for online customers.
CDPHE also shared details on how the shortage is impact its WIC Program, “Many of the approximately 60,000 families served by the Colorado WIC Program have been impacted by the nationwide infant formula supply chain issues, particularly those who need specialty formulas for health reasons. Colorado WIC has worked closely with manufacturers, expanded the list of nutritionally-similar products, and coordinated with national retailers and pharmacies to make these specialty formulas more readily available for families during this time of limited infant formula availability. Families who are enrolled in WIC and struggling to find formula should contact their local agency directly.
For more information about the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Colorado, including food benefits during and after pregnancy and available resources for both breastfeeding and formula feeding, please visit ColoradoWIC.gov [coloradowic.gov].”