BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Parents and families looking for baby formula continue to be met with empty shelves.
Data-tracking agency Datasembly reports that 45-percent of baby formula products across the United States were out of stock last week. The agency also says more than 50-percent of formula products were out of stock at some point last week in ten states, including Virginia, Nevada, Tennessee and Arizona.
CEO of Datasembly Ben Reich stated, “This issue has been compounded by supply chain challenges, product recalls and historic inflation. The category started to see stocking challenges beginning in July 2021, and the situation has continued to worsen into 2022. With our real-time, highly granular data, Datasembly will continue to provide new insights as they become available.”
The Biden Administration announced Thursday it had secured its first batch of infant formula from overseas in an effort to counter the shortages. But until that shipment is placed on store shelves formula shortages are being felt across the state and even in Kern County.
Still, some Kern County families are maintaining a positive attitude by helping one another.
Social media is powerful and Kern County families have been using it to help each other find baby formula, and even sell or donate formula or breast milk to one another which is what one Bakersfield mom is doing to help a family member.
Lauren Cromley is a mother of four. She breastfeeds her 8-month-old daughter but is giving her extra supplies to a family member whose baby is in need. Cromley says her family member cannot breastfeed so she’s sent hundreds of ounces of frozen breast milk to her in San Francisco all by packing it in a box filled with dry ice.
“It's scary to watch the other moms worry,” she said. “She does need that special formula because she does have some allergies but she hasn’t been able to find it so right now she is fully depending on donations.”
“With about 800 oz that was about $385 just for overnight shipping through UPS plus the cost of the dry ice and the box the dry ice was about $40 to put in there,” continued Cromley.
It's a costly alternative but Cromley says she along with moms on a social media group called Bakersfield Moms Official are selling and donating what they can to help.
“Us in Bakersfield we’re trying to help support each other as best as we can as moms. We know what the struggle is like so we want to put that out ahead of time that we aren’t going to gouge you so they know ahead of time.”
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Clayton Alexander with the Better Business Bureau says during this time, there are many who want to help others but scammers are also ready to take advantage of families desperately looking for the formula their baby needs. Alexander says do your research before buying from someone on social media.
“We always tell people to look out for spelling errors, misleading or vague descriptions that don’t necessarily match up to the product that they are selling. Another big this is that does the website have contact information, does that contact information work,” explained Alexander. “We’re always telling people to pay with a credit card as that offers the most protection if you are scammed because you can reverse the charge, report it.”
Meanwhile, Cromley says she hasn’t come across any scams yet but has found a community of moms who are there to support each other.
“Seeing so many moms saying 'hey I'm going to the store today what do you need' or just seeing dozens of moms post like 'hey I really need this formula if you see it' - it's so wonderful to see the community come together not that we didn’t expect it all of us moms are supporting each other.”
The Better Business Bureau says it is starting to see an increase in baby formula scams nationwide.
Taking a look at the Better Business Bureau's scam tracker report on May 19th shows someone in San Diego County allegedly reported they ordered baby formula and despite multiple contacts with the company, only received some of the order.
Throughout the baby formula shortage, there has been debate on whether breastfeeding will actually help with the shortage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says not all mothers can breastfeed, produce enough milk when they breastfeed or have the support needed to successfully do it. 23ABC took an in-depth look at the most recent Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC™) Survey by the CDC released in 2020.
CDC’s national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) assesses maternity care practices and provides feedback to encourage hospitals to make improvements that better support breastfeeding. About every 2 years, CDC invites all eligible hospitals across the country to complete the mPINC survey. The questions focus on specific parts of maternity care that affect how babies are fed.
"In the United States, nearly all infants are born in a hospital. Their stay is typically very short, but events during this time have lasting effects. Experiences with breastfeeding in the first hours and days of life significantly influence an infant’s later feeding. Several key supportive hospital practices can improve breastfeeding outcomes. Birth facility policies and practices that create a supportive environment for breastfeeding begin prenatally and continue through discharge, and include:
- Hospital policies
- Staff Training
- Immediate Skin-to-Skin Contact
- Early and Frequent breastfeeding
- Teaching About Breastfeeding
- Exclusive Breastfeeding
- Follow-up After Discharge
The report said that one area for improvement is what is called "institutional management." That is the commitment of hospital administrations to policies and practices that support infant nutrition and care.
One area for improvement is institutional management. State scores for Institutional Management ranged from 47 to 95 with a national score of 70. Institutional Management demonstrates the commitment of hospitals’ administrations to policies and practices that support optimal infant nutrition and care. Only 6 states scored an 80 or higher for this subdomain. Although most hospital accreditation programs require hospitals to track exclusive breastfeeding, quality improvement efforts that focus on the other elements within Institutional Management will improve this subdomain score.
The report recently graded all the states in 2020 which were based on a 1-to-100 scale, With 100 being the optimum score. Nationwide the country's score is 81. California came in at 87. These scores specifically indicate and are based on how hospitals help improve breastfeeding outcomes.
Evidence-based hospital practices are important for establishing breastfeeding. Individualized support in the first few hours and days is critical to help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals. Although most infants born in 2017 started breastfeeding (84.1%), only 58.3% of infants were breastfeeding at 6 months (Table 1). The percentage of breastfed infants supplemented with infant formula before 2 days of age was 19.2% among infants born in 2017, an increase from 16.9% among infants born in 2016. Comprehensive hospital practices and policies that support breastfeeding have been shown to reduce medically unnecessary formula supplementation, reduce disparities in breastfeeding, and help give infants the best start in life.