Parents in the United States are using social media to try to track down infant formula milk – and unsafe alternatives – during a shortage that’s affecting North America.
This week President Joe Biden called in the military to help distribute supplies. The situation is a result of a combination of global supply chain issues, and one of the leading US manufacturers having to shut down its factory following contamination.
Rebecca Romo Teague, a radio presenter in Cape Cod, set up a Facebook group for her local community where parents can upload photos of the baby aisles in supermarkets they visit, so others can see – in real time – where there are supplies.
She was inspired to create the group after hearing about a foster mum whose eight-week-old baby needed a very specific formula as a result of allergies – and was finding that when she got to stores claiming to have it in stock online, they had sold out.
“The next time I went to the shop, I went down the baby aisle, and I was shocked. There were maybe 20 cans of various types, and that was it, where you’re used to seeing it completely lined all the way to the end. And there was nothing,” she told the BBC radio programme Tech Tent.
“I thought if everybody could just post a photo, it would save parents and caregivers from having to drive around to eight different stores trying to find it.”
Rebecca doesn’t allow her group to buy and sell any formula because of the potential complications.
Formula-fed babies are advised to have about seven bottles per day from the age of four or five months, before they start to eat solid food. Each bottle is 210ml (7fl oz), which requires seven scoops of formula powder – so an 800g box lasts around a week.
Instagrammer Mallory Whitmore, aka theformulamom, says there is enormous concern among her 179 000 followers, many of whom are struggling to find supplies to feed their children.
“Parents are stressed, anxious, angry, and many feel helpless,” she says.
They’re also debating difficult choices such as whether to water down formula, make their own (neither of these options is recommended by healthcare professionals), or switch to cows’ milk at an earlier age than is advised.
Others are taking to the net to search for unofficial breast milk supplies – which is only recommended from a dedicated service, where the milk can be screened first.
“The general feeling is absolute panic,” says Mallory Whitmore.