ATLANTA — Moms across metro Atlanta are turning to social media in frustration, finding empty shelves when they go to buy baby formula.
"It's the scariest feeling," Alex Sessa told 11Alive's Liza Lucas. "When you're just trying to feed your baby, and you can not find the formula anywhere."
Sessa's baby girl, Ella, is six months old, and over the past few months Sessa has found herself frantically trying to find baby formula.
"I can't find it at a grocery store, at a Target," she said. "Nowhere."
"Nobody knows where to look," mom Angela Breeden explained. She's been stressed, searching for the hypoallergenic formula she needs for her son, Khalan, who has gastrointestinal issues.
Both are formula fed and it’s only been the past six months that have been very difficult to find formula
"I literally have been at times I'm like 'okay, we might get a little bit more water added because we need to kind of stretch this out,'" Breeden said.
Kroger told 11Alive demand for baby formula is "extremely high across the nation." The grocery store chain is purchasing the maximum amount from manufacturers to help ensure customers have access to the products they need.
"Product supply challenges are currently impacting most of the retail industry," according to CVS Health. "We’re continuing to work with our vendors to address this issue and we regret any inconvenience that our customers may be experiencing."
11Alive also checked in with state officials at the Georgia Department of Public Health, the agency which manages Georgia's WIC program.
"Formula manufacturers have informed all states that they are experiencing logistical issues with ensuring stock is maintained in stores," a DPH spokesperson confirmed. "They continue to work through these supply chain issues," adding that Georgia's WIC team has been able to find solutions for participating families unable to find their needed formula.
The issue of not having the right brand can be a real concern for parents, according to Mallory Whitmore, a certified infant feeding technician and founder of 'The Formula Mom.'
"We've got families who are dealing with sensitivities, with allergies," she said. "There's not a good option for a lot of them other than trying to crowdsource. It's really making an already difficult situation, having a new baby, being postpartum, especially in a pandemic, a little bit worse," she added.
Given low stock and inconsistent supply, Whitmore said it can be helpful for parents to understand the basic composition of their child's formula so they can check for available substitutes.
"Piece number one is figuring out what in your formula is actually working for your baby, and is there another one that's out there that could work?" she said, adding that may mean exploring generic brands or trying different versions of formula within the same brand.
Whitmore also advised parents check with their pediatrician's office to see if they have samples or lean on your network online and elsewhere, an approach where Breeden and Sessa found success.
Thanks to other moms online, Breeden located enough of her son's prescription brand to make it a few more weeks. She's hopeful their specialist will be able to give them the green light to try milk or a milk-substitute.
"Between the two moms I was able to get five cans," she said.
Sessa meanwhile also turned to social media, ultimately finding friends in other states who are able to ship her what she needs.
"It's exasperating because if you run out, what do you do?" Sessa said.
Formula maker Enfamil acknowledged the shortages on its website, saying in part: "We are aware of baby formula shortages in some retailers and will do everything possible to ensure you don’t run out of formula. During this time, formulas can be purchased directly from Amazon, Walmart or Target should your local retailer not have adequate stock of our product options. We also suggest using the Enfamil Store Locator to find stores in your area selling our products and calling your local store to check on their Enfamil inventory.
"As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we would like to reassure our Enfamil community that we are doing everything we can to make sure every baby gets the Enfamil they need. We appreciate your patience as we navigate this dynamic situation, and we will continue to provide updates to our community as the situation evolves."
11Alive also reached out to the Infant Nutrition Council of America, whose members include formula makers Abbott Nutrition, Gerber Products Company, Perrigo Nutritionals and Reckitt and was told meeting the needs of families is top priority.
“Infant formula manufacturers are actively working with distributors, retailers and state agencies to ensure availability of and continued access to infant formula," said Robert Rankin, Executive Director of INCA, in a statement. "Unnecessary stockpiling can be counterproductive to these efforts. As always, it is essential to obtain infant formula from a safe, reliable source, and discuss feeding-related questions with a child’s pediatrician.”
Both Target and Costco declined to comment on this story.