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Iowa mom creates formula network as shortage worsens

A local mom is taking action to help local families get the formula their babies need.

Jillian Mahen (WQAD)

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Published: 4:34 PM CDT June 1, 2022
Updated: 5:34 PM CDT June 1, 2022

For more than a year, the supply of baby formula has declined. But following the recall of most Similac brand formulas in February, the need for formula became dire.

By April, the shortage was so bad that parents considered themselves "lucky" if their baby tolerated generic formula brands. 

Kaitlin Carr considered herself one of those "lucky" moms. 

"We’ve been fortunate because we use the basic, just generic formula," said Carr. "So for a while, we were OK. But, I was starting to pick up a little bit on- things were starting to look not present, not there. Something was going on."

As a mom, Carr is used to taking care of others' needs and when she noticed that formula stock was dwindling she decided to take action. 

"It started as, 'How can I help? What can I look for when I'm out and about?'" said Carr. "And then, as I became aware that the need was there, I’ve been asking moms and people in my circle, whether [they] want to help or [they] have a need, let's come together and... can we help each other?" 

And the need has continued to grow. 

According to the latest data from Datasembly for the week of May 15-22, Iowa has reached nearly 80% out-of-stock, Illinois is hovering at 50% and the national average is 70% out-of-stock. 

Credit: WQAD
Iowa reached nearly 80% out-of-stock for baby formula for the week of May 15-22, while Illinois peaked at 45% OOS.

For Carr, those numbers were personal. 

"Because I know that feeling when [the need for formula] comes up every couple weeks," she said

She started shopping for other families in addition to her own — picking up formula brands and types that she knew friends and acquaintances needed whenever she saw them. 

"And then, as it became hard keeping track of who I was looking for, I made a Facebook group and that's our home base now," Carr said.

The group has more than 130 members and counting with five or more joining every day. 

"A lot of the members are women who don't have babies but are looking on all of their grocery trips," Carr said. 

It's a group full of parents who truly understand the stress, fear and emotions attached to the thought of empty bellies, caused by empty shelves. 

"It's like an underlying just kind of you know it's occupying my mind all the time," said Carr.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and right now, that's never been more true. Carr's group is not only serving as a formula sourcing page but a community for parents who are struggling to feed their babies. 

"I think coming in and having this community, the support, even if the outcome isn't a lot different, it's still helpful," she said. "For a while, we felt it as our own small community of parents who have infants under a certain age.. but it wasn't being talked about."

She continued, "It's a good reminder that good people are out there, we're trying to do the best thing and we'll get through it."