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Formula shortage: Mom searches six stores only to leave empty-handed

Currently, 40% of the nation’s baby formula is out of stock. One Tennessee mom shares her plight in trying to find some.
/ Source: TODAY

Wynter Balthrop, a mom in Gallatin, Tennessee, spent her Easter hunting for baby formula

Balthrop, 26, had no other choice. Her 8-month-old daughter, Blakely, drinks Enfamil Nutramigen and she was down to her last scoop. Blakely, like many babies with food allergies, can only tolerate hypoallergenic, lactose-free formula.

Balthrop and her husband, Tyler, traveled to six stores in total — but the shelves were bare. The EMS dispatcher recalled walking back to their truck with tears in her eyes.

“We also called around to surrounding states and cities— we were willing to go three hours. But they couldn’t help us either, they were also out of stock,” Balthrop told TODAY Parents

When it became clear that they would have to feed Blakely a formula that would upset her stomach, Balthrop broke down crying. 

“I just lost it. It’s not fair that we have to give our baby something that’s going to make her absolutely miserable,” Balthrop said. “Why is it so hard to find formula?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 25% of babies are exclusively breastfed through six months, which means millions of babies — including Blakely — depend on formula. But currently, 40% of the nation’s baby formula is out of stock.

The formula shortage was triggered by supply-chain issues, but worsened after Abbott Nutrition, the nation’s largest baby formula manufacturer, closed its facility in Michigan, amid a recall due to safety concerns.

Currently, some major retailers have put limits on how much formula customers can purchase at one time. 

Wynter Balthrop went to six stores trying to find formula for her 8-month-old daughter, Blakely. She came home empty-handed.
Wynter Balthrop went to six stores trying to find formula for her 8-month-old daughter, Blakely. She came home empty-handed. Jessica Hamblen Huff / Life Through a Lens

Balthrop opened up about her experience in a heartbreaking Facebook post.

"She doesn’t understand the sadness that it brings to us as her parents.. knowing we can’t feed our baby what she needs right now, because it’s out of our control," Balthrop wrote in part. "No, she just knows the pain she is in… And even though it’s out of our control, it will NEVER EVER feel justifiable… No, instead, it feels like the biggest mountain of defeat and failure… & no matter which way you try to turn it to make it feel right, you just CAN’T!!!"

Balthrop said family and friends began reaching out, wanting to help.

“A lot of aunts and uncles started calling and saying, ‘I’m at the store and they have what you need in stock, I’m gonna get what the limit allows and send it to you,” she said. “Thankfully, we’ve been able to build up a little supply.” 

Now Balthrop is paying it forward. She created a Facebook group called Blakely’s Blessings to help other panicked parents find formula.

“One woman was trying to get formula shipped from Canada but it was going to cost her $130 for a product that normally would have cost $40,” Balthrop said. “This has been going on for months, and no one one can tell us when it’s going to end.”

On Monday, U.S. Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf appeared on TODAY, and predicted that the Abbott Nutrition plant will reopen in two weeks.

He did not say when formula will be back on shelves.

“We don’t expect that to last to the end of the year, by any means,” Califf said.

“We’re taking a number of measures, including getting all the manufacturers to step up, getting the Sturgis plant up and going, but also importing a product that was intended for other countries. That’s well underway now. And in fact, I expect by the end of the day today, we’re likely to have an announcement about that path forward.” 

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