CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Lowcountry families are feeling the impacts of the baby formula shortage gripping the nation. Personal stories are all coming together to create a crisis.
Brittany Chanco is a mom to a baby girl and a 13-year-old boy. She says never in her 13 years of motherhood did she anticipate not being able to feed her child.
“You just feel defeated,” said Chanco.
Her daughter drinks one of the more popular types of formula meaning shelves are nearly almost bare of the kind she needs.
“I went to at least 20 stores. I was unable to find anything on the shelves,” said Chanco.
She said if you are lucky enough to find formula, it’s hard to balance your child’s needs with the needs of other struggling families.
“Personally I don’t want to buy 10 cans at one location because I know that affects everybody else.”
She describes the constant hunt for a crucial item as heartbreaking.
That sentiment is shared by another Lowcountry mom, Hannah Frierson. She has a baby boy and another on the way. Finding the time to scour the shelves as a full-time school teacher is hard.
“I remember going to Costco one day to find formula and I couldn’t find any at all,” said Frierson. “I remember panicking not knowing what I was going to feed him.”
Her son needs a special gentle formula to help with a sensitive stomach. She says she was worried about switching his formula for fear it would have repercussions. However, it was her only option.
“I just remember crying in the middle of the store because at that point I didn’t know what I was going to do and I only had a couple of days of formula left for him. So, that was probably the hardest time and I had to make the difficult decision to switch him and just hope for the best and see what happens with switching him,” said Frierson.
These stories are similar among moms nationwide. Now, many are turning to social media for help finding formula.
Facebook groups have been created for that purpose. Group members will post photos of restocked shelves at stores in an area or offer formula they don’t need. Many families spend hours each day searching the pages in hopes they’ll see a post about the formula they need. The next step is being quick enough to get it.
“It almost becomes your whole day constantly checking Facebook groups hoping for an opportunity to get a can maybe two,” said Chanco.
Frierson says while the groups are helpful and many moms have found success, the sheer amount of people looking for assistance can be overwhelming.
Another strategy families are using is asking friends and family members across the country to keep their eyes open and sending cans via mail.
That’s how Chanco was able to collect a small stockpile. She says she has a little less than 2-month’s worth.
“I’m more comfortable now, but still I have no expectation of when it’s gonna resolve,” she said.
Thanks to help from friends and family members, Chanco is now able to donate her backup formula to other mothers struggling to feed their babies. Despite paying for it herself, she’s choosing compassion.
“I gave it away for free and I tried to make sure to break it up as well cause I had a good amount and I wanted to help as many families as I could,” said Chanco.
Other moms are turning to donated breastmilk as the search for formula isn’t yielding great results.
Another Facebook group dedicated to finding breastmilk in the state has seen many posts from moms offering what they have.
That includes Becca Zeif, a mom to a six-month-old.
She donated 1,600 ounces of frozen breastmilk to another mother in the area.
“With the formula shortage and everyone struggling and all of that, it seemed like the obvious thing to do to find somebody in need and help them out,” said Zeif.
Additionally, MUSC’s Milk Bank is seeing an increase in donations and expanding eligibility for families in need.
From Zeif to Chanco to Frierson, they all say seeing the community band together to help each other in whatever ways they can, brings a new meaning to the quote ‘It takes a village.’