In the United States, parents are using social media to try to find formula – and dangerous alternatives – during a shortage affecting North America.
This week, President Joe Biden called on the military to help distribute supplies. The situation is the result of a combination of global supply chain issues and one of the major US manufacturers having to shut down its plant following contamination.
Cape Cod radio host Rebecca Romo Teague has created a Facebook group for her local community where parents can upload photos of baby aisles at supermarkets they visit, for others to see – in real time – where the supplies are.
She was inspired to start the group after hearing about an adoptive mother whose eight-week-old baby needed a very specific formula due to allergies – and found that when she arrived at stores claiming the have in stock online, they had sold out.
“The next time I went to the store, I went to the baby aisle and was shocked. There were maybe 20 cans of different types, and that was it, where you got the used to see them completely doubled to the end. And there was nothing,” she told BBC radio show Tech Tent.
“I thought if everyone could post a photo, it would save parents and carers from having to go to eight different stores trying to find it.”
Rebecca does not allow her group to buy and sell formula due to potential complications.
Formula-fed babies are advised to drink about seven bottles a day from the age of four to five months, before they begin to eat solid foods. Each bottle is 210 ml (7 fl oz), which requires seven scoops of formula powder. An 800g box lasts about a week.
Instagrammer Mallory Whitmore, aka theformulamom, says her 179,000 followers are very worried, many of whom are struggling to find food to feed their children.
“Parents are stressed, anxious, angry and many feel helpless,” she says.
They also debate tough choices like whether to dilute formula, make their own (none of these options are recommended by medical professionals), or switch to cow’s milk at an earlier age than recommended.
Others turn to the net to search for unofficial breastmilk supplies – which is only recommended by a dedicated service, where the milk can be examined first.
“The general feeling is absolute panic,” says Mallory Whitmore.