La Crosse-area parents scramble as baby formula shortage worsens

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — It’s pricier now more than ever to have a baby, from diaper costs to child-care challenges. Now, many parents are facing shortages of a critical product: baby formula.

“My kiddo, he was born premature, he was born at 28 weeks, five days,” said said Kim Williams of La Crosse. “I never really got the chance to breastfeed him.”

Williams turned to baby formula to help keep her newborn son nourished.

But now, stores nationwide are facing critical shortages.

“It’s a very stressful time and scary time for caregivers right now who are trying to find formula for their infants and their children,” said Jennifer Miller, a nutritionist for La Crosse County WIC.

Williams knows that stress firsthand. Because her son was born prematurely, he requires a special formula to maintain his weight.

“It’s taken a toll on my kid, it really has, because it’s been messing with his weight,” Williams said.

She isn’t alone. Through WIC, Miller works with multiple clients throughout the region who are looking for solutions.

“Some families are driving up to an hour to go find formula,” Miller said.

Miller walked through stores in La Crosse on Monday and saw mostly empty shelves.

“And what I’ve found like, is there’s one can of something on the shelves,” Miller said.

For parents like Williams, just one can of something isn’t enough. Though she has switched formula brands out of necessity, she says her son doesn’t like it — and even that brand is hard to find. Regardless, her son typically goes through one can in about two days.

“I’ve got two cans for him right now, so he’s set for right now, but I’ve got to go out and get some more for him,” Williams said.

Miller has found that some parents are turning to options that are less than ideal.

“We’re hearing the scary stories, too, where caregivers are turning to cows milk or almond milk or goat milk, or they’re diluting the formula,” Miller said. “Anything to make it last longer — and that is not a good choice.”

Miller urges parents to contact their doctors or the county’s WIC program to talk about options if they need formula. WIC also has documents of formula substitutions available.

Desperate for a solution, parents are feeling the strain.

“I feel bad for him, I feel bad for myself. I mean at times, when I couldn’t find formula, I felt like I was a bad mom.”

But all they can do is wait.

The Wisconsin Grocers Association says there is no clear solution at this time.

The main cause of the shortage is not enough workers to meet the demand and bring the product to market.

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