Local moms unite to help each other overcome a national formula shortage

Jamie Myra and her 7-month-old son, Russell, shop for specialty baby formula at Sherm’s Thunderbird Market in Medford on Wednesday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Jamie Myra, holding her son Russell outside Sherm’s Thunderbird on Wednesday, said she and her fiancé spent days calling stores and driving around looking for formula.

Local parent groups are mobilizing to “keep babies fed” amid an ongoing nationwide shortage of infant formula.

In the spirit of the community – a gathering of mother bears – local parents share formula supplies, shop at stores to check on supplies for babies in need, and even offer to share excess breast milk .

The infant formula shortages began earlier this year after reports of several babies falling ill from contaminated formula from the Abbott nutrition factory in Sturgis, Michigan. Two Ohio infants died of an infection linked to a bacteria, Cronobacter sakazakii, found in formula, and another was hospitalized several weeks before recovering.

Following the FDA inspection in February, Abbott Nutrition’s factory was found to have had “extremely unsanitary” conditions, and it recalled a number of lots of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare formulas. It then ceased production at the factory.

Shipments from Europe are helping to replenish supplies, but local store shelves are still nearly empty, with local retailers placing limits on the number of boxes of formula that can be purchased.

Watching a formula shortage and paying $5 a gallon for gas to fund a three-times-a-week formula hunt was a far cry from how Ashland’s mom Jamie Myra thought she was enjoying her first six months with her son. in infancy, Russell.

Myra and her fiancé spent days calling stores and driving around looking for formula. To complicate the situation, their son is sensitive to lactose, so replacing the wrong formula can make the baby sick.

“It was…really awful. When we started to run out of formula, we literally had to plan an entire day to get more. Sometimes it feels like we can only get enough formula for two or three days, and we put so many miles on our vehicle,” Myra said.

“Because of the shortage, we had to change his type of formula so many times, and he is lactose sensitive, so it was very stressful. We tried putting him on the blue can (Similac Advance) because you can find the blue can everywhere, but when we tried it he literally didn’t eat for 24 hours.

Social media, for some, came to the rescue. Myra said it was heartwarming to see local mothers sharing advice, offering extra formula, and in some cases even offering to share breastmilk or wet-nurse babies without food.

White City mother Ashley Bruckenstein shared extra supplies of breastmilk with four local mothers who ran out of formula and couldn’t find more.

“I can’t stand the idea of ​​babies being hungry. I’m producing more than my (3 month old) daughter can eat, and I just feel like I couldn’t live with myself knowing I’m producing more and not helping to feed other babies,” she said.

“It’s good to know that, especially since I’m blessed to know that my daughter is being fed right now, if it ever becomes an issue that my community will step up. In the end, all that matters is that our children are nourished and healthy.

Providing a sort of central supply location for donated formulas, management at the Kid to Kid consignment store in Medford recently offered a formula shelf for both sharing excess and picking up needed supplies.

“We saw a lot of parents looking for formula or trying to give it away so we decided to open our doors as a safe place to pick it up rather than going to strangers or meeting in random parking lots,” manager Amber Johnson said.

“We see a lot of infant formula coming through our doors anyway, so we thought we’d just donate it to the community instead of selling it. We had a handful of moms who came to tell us they couldn’t find formula anywhere else and they were so relieved we got some.

Angel Pyles, lactation nurse and mother from Medford, said it was inspiring to see families helping each other. Pyles made a social media post to encourage formula sharing and urged local parents not to dilute formula to “make it go further” or change baby’s feeding plans without consulting a doctor.

Pyles endorsed the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank as a resource for sharing and requesting breast milk. A mother of teenagers, Pyles said she remembers when her children were small and infant formula companies sent samples of formula cans in the mail and infant formula as baby shower gifts .

“I know a lot of people still give formula as a gift to their baby. In southern Oregon, we have a huge breastfeeding rate, but people will offer a box of formula and say, “There you go, for a rainy day,” she said.

“It got me thinking, it would be great if people could all share their rainy day formula for those moms in need right now.”

Myra found comfort in being able to empathize with other local moms. She hopes supplies will increase soon and local stores will communicate when they plan to restock.

“I think it will be a long time before I feel a constant sense of worry. Every time he starts running out, my anxiety skyrockets. I never imagined it would be so difficult to get insurance and enough food for my baby,” the mum said.

“I worry on a fairly regular basis that I might get to a point where I won’t have enough to feed him and the stores won’t have any. A few days ago, we went to nine different stores, and I was literally losing so much hope. It wasn’t until the last store that we found a bottle of ready-to-serve formula.

She added: “I was grateful to find that one because it was one more than we already had. I know he’s chunky, but I still have to feed him.

Contact freelance writer Buffy Pollock at [email protected]