Formula Shortage: The Struggle is Real (and It’s Serious)

formula shortageBy now, most moms are aware that there is a nationwide formula shortage. A combination of supply chain shortages, inflation, and product recalls led formula to be scarcely available across the country. For babies who need high-risk formula, the situation is even direr. This life-threatening situation could cause some infants who rely on the life-saving formula to be at risk of losing their lives — all while some take the opportunity to parrot cruel, insensitive comments on how moms should just breastfeed instead.

One of the most famous voices to give moms terrified over not being able to give their children formula is actress Bette Midler. In response to a tweet from journalist Stephanie Ruhle, Midler blithely tweeted, “TRY BREASTFEEEDING! It’s free and available on demand.”

Listen, breastfeeding is wonderful, and it’s a miracle that women’s bodies are able to feed our children. But telling a woman who bottle-feeds that she should breastfeed instead — or that breastfeeding is the solution in the middle of a formula crisis — is short-sighted and ignorant. Women have many, many reasons why they choose formula over breastfeeding, and it’s a decision that’s immensely personal for each mother. No one should be shamed for how they choose to feed their baby… and for some of us, it isn’t even a choice.

I should know. When I gave birth to my first child, I had big dreams of breastfeeding. And I tried. Oh, how I tried… and tried… and tried. I did everything I knew how to do. I saw lactation consultants, breastfed and pumped constantly in between bottle feeds, did everything I could to stimulate lactation. But no matter what I did, my milk just would not come in. Between the choice of starving my kid so I could feel superior because I exclusively breastfed or letting my kid actually survive infancy, I chose formula.

Then my next pregnancy came around. My milk came in just fine this time; I was thrilled. But then we ended up with another problem: Every time my son would eat, he would projectile vomit everything back up. We tried regular formula instead; no dice. We tried lactose-free formula, and that didn’t work either. Turns out, my son had inherited his grandfather’s dairy allergy — no, he wasn’t lactose-intolerant, but allergic to all dairy. He had to have soy formula in order to eat.

I eventually was able to breastfeed some of my later kids. But if the formula shortage had taken place when my first two were infants, I don’t know how we would have survived. Breastfeeding propaganda would not have helped, and it still doesn’t. No, not every woman’s body is made to breastfeed flawlessly. Our bodies are capable of doing incredible things, but they don’t always work as planned. If they did, then no one would ever have things like diabetes or cancer, either, just like sometimes, breastfeeding just doesn’t work. That’s not even considering the fact that it’s far from rare for formula to be a key tool for long-term breastfeeding success.

Yes, as people like to annoyingly point out in this terrifying time of crisis, in the “good old days” there were no options but breastmilk. And you know what happened then? You were either rich enough to afford a wet nurse, or your baby died. Period. That’s not even including surviving family members having to find a way to feed infants who survived childbirth, while their mothers didn’t, but I digress. The point is, formula is a scientific miracle. Having to go without it, for many families, is a matter of life and death.

The Biden administration recently responded with plans to take action that will hopefully address this crisis. But in the meantime, many are peddling an at-home formula recipe from the 1960s as a means of getting by in the meantime; this often includes Karo syrup. Do not give this to your child; this is not recommended because, like honey, there is a risk of giving your child botulism. Instead, if you must make formula yourself, follow these recommendations from the World Health Organization.

Cassy Fiano-Chesser is a Jacksonville native and mom to six kids. Her husband is a Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient. She works from home as a blogger and a freelance writer, and they currently live in the Argyle area of Jacksonville. Benjamin is their oldest, born in 2011, and he loves being a big brother. Wyatt was born in 2012, and he has Down syndrome. Ivy came next, in 2013, followed by Clara, born in 2015, who is a diva-with-a-capital-D. Rounding out the brood is Felicity, born in 2017, and Lilly, born in 2007. They love discovering things to do on the First Coast and going on family adventures, as well as cheering on the Jumbo Shrimp and the Icemen.

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