Baby formula and community

Baby formula and community

As many people know by now, there’s a baby formula shortage.

It’s the kind of thing we’d never think could happen until it happens. Some things in life just are basic. There are safety pins. There are clothes hangers. There are balloons. There are bananas.

There is baby formula.

But as a result of a combination of bad things, as a story in the Atlantic detailed last week — a recall at Abbott Labs, the result of a bacteria in a batch of formula; supply chain problems, exacerbated by the pandemic and unpredicted, mismatched surges in supply and demand; and stringent regulations that according to some observers go too far in keeping formula out of parents’ hands and infants’ mouths — it’s hard to get formula.

And babies need it.

Some babies are breastfed. That’s wonderful. But not all mothers can or want to nurse their babies, and a supply of human milk is even more difficult to produce if you haven’t been nursing than a supply of formula from a shuttered production line is.

So what are panicked parents supposed to do?

They network. They share. They compare notes. They look out for each other.

It’s worth pointing out here that it’s not easy to switch an infant from one formula to another. It has to be done slowly, watchfully, and with a pediatrician’s oversight.

Beth Chananie, our community editor, and her husband, Robert, are the grandparents of five little girls; the youngest is just five months old, and needs one of the formulas that is almost impossible to find. And that formula, Beth said, is the replacement for another formula that is entirely impossible to find. So she, Robert, their other two children and their children’s spouses all are on the lookout for formula.

So she was thrilled to see a post on TeaneckShuls that said that a family had gotten cans of powder to mix and bottles of ready-to-feed formula but their baby had been switched to another one. So — could anyone use those cans of formula?

Yes! said Beth. So she made arrangements with the young father, who offered to drop the cans and bottles off on his way to work.

Beth’s son and daughter-in-law had found a few other sources for formula by then — they’d been diligently working every lead they came across — so they decided not to take all of those cans and bottles. “They didn’t want to be greedy,” Beth said. “They were happy to take two of them, and save the rest for someone else, who still was as desperate as they had been.”

Meanwhile, Beth took pictures of extra cans that her son and daughter-in-law still had from another formula switch — there’s a bit of an art to finding the perfect formula even when stores are fully stocked — and asked the generous young father if he knew anyone who could use them.

As it happened, he did. His neighbor. So he went back to Beth’s house, and there was another swap. Another small mouth filled. “And he gave me back the check that I gave him for the formula,” she said. “It was a really cool thing.”

It’s also a small thing, right? A few cans of baby formula mix, and a few bottles of the stuff.

But it’s not small. Not really. Babies depend on it. And it also shows the way a community can come through; how people can divide resources fairly to make sure that everybody has something. People look out for each other. It works.

Beth suggests looking for formula on social media; she found listings not only on TeaneckShuls but on Facebook. So far, she’s found NJ Formula/Baby Food (Buy-Sell-Trade-Giveaway), Buy, Sell, Trade Baby Formula in NJ, and Bergen County Moms. She’s sure there are more of them.

“That’s what networking is all about,” Beth said.