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San Diego moms going to great lengths to combat baby formula shortage

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Posted at 8:41 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 02:20:23-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The ongoing baby formula shortage is taking its toll on families.

Some mothers are going to great lengths to keep their babies fed as relief is still weeks away.

The shortage was triggered partly by the February closure of a manufacturing plant in Michigan run by Abbott Nutrition.

One San Diego mom is traveling to Tijuana to stock up on baby formula.

Jesi Barragan, who lives in Santee, said she initially tried breastfeeding her 2-month-old daughter but couldn't produce enough milk.

"I was dealing with trying to accept the fact that my body was not going to produce enough milk for her... started introducing formula, and all of sudden it's gone," Barragan said.

Barragan said her family traveled to Tijuana for toilet paper at the start of the pandemic, so she figured she'd do the same for formula.

"I was like let me go to TJ and see what it looks like down there, so I went, and the shelves were full," Barragan said.

She was able to buy nine cans of the baby formula brand her daughter drinks.

"I just wasn't sure how she was going to react to the formula, but she's doing fine on it, so yes, I'm happy," Barragan said

Barragan said she gave five cans to other mothers in need.

Meanwhile, another San Diego mother is using social media to help others struggling to find baby formula.

"It was the worst feeling going to the grocery store and not seeing the formula you need. I just never thought it would get to this point," Ashley Maddox said.

Like Barragan, Maddox's 5-month-old son relies on baby formula.

"I breastfed for a couple of months, and it just wasn't working for us anymore, so I switched to formula," Maddox said.

Frustrated about the shortage, Maddox created the San Diego Baby Formula Support Facebook Group.

Others quickly joined. Soon after, Maddox said she was able to connect with another mom giving away the exact formula she was looking for.

"I drove up to Santee the next morning. She gave it to me, and that's kind of what's keeping me in stock now," Maddox said.

The group now has more than 100 members. Some posts are moms searching for a specialized formula. Other posts show what stores have products in stock.

Fortunately, Maddox said her baby is on a simple formula, but she added some moms can't just use any product.

"Some kids have a lactose allergy, so they need a soy one. There's all different types; there's a sensitive one, a gentle one," Maddox said.

Maddox said the group is about moms helping moms to keep their children full and healthy.

"Lately, I've been getting more and more people that want to join the group, which is awesome, but it's also kind of scary because that just means that many more people are in need," Maddox said.

This week, Abbott and the FDA made a plan to get the factory in Michigan running in two weeks. Joel Sutherland, Professor of Practice in Supply Chain Management at the University of San Diego School of Business, said even if that happens, it would still be six to eight weeks until shelves are restocked.

"You’ve gotta have people trained, you have to have the equipment, you have to get the raw materials ordered and received and put in place before you can ever do this. This is going to take time," he said.

Sutherland said there are four constraints currently in place that are causing this problem. Those four constraints are production, import regulations, transportation and FDA approval.

President Biden recently implemented the Defense Production Act, which requires companies to give priority to manufacturers that make formula before other customers. In addition, he's mobilized military planes to help transport approved formula from other countries into the United States.

Sutherland said these actions will help with a few of the four constraints, but won't correct them all.

"It will help, but I think if anybody has expectations that this is the magic bullet and it’s going to resolve the issue within a matter of a couple weeks, I think they’re going to be disappointed," said Sutherland.

There are only four companies that control 90% of the market in the country, and 98% of the formula used in the U.S. is also made here.