‘We were down to one bottle:’ Baby formula shortage forces U.S. mom to get supply from B.C.

A new mother in Washington state says she had to contact family in Vancouver just to deliver baby formula which is in critical shortage.

Hannah (who prefers not to use her last name), is just one of many parents living a nightmare as no immediate end to the widespread baby formula shortage on both sides of the border is in sight.

Hannah and her husband welcomed their first child, a healthy baby boy on May 7, but by then the shortfall was already underway and she never thought this would be her reality as a new mom.

While the new parents received some supplies from the hospital, it wasn’t enough. Hannah says they tried finding what their son needed and kept coming up empty.

So they desperately called her parents in Vancouver for help.

“We were actually freaking out a little bit. Again, we’re new parents and we’re just getting used to how much baby eats and drinks per day and we didn’t realize how fast he goes through it, so we thought we were good for like a month, but it turns out, it was not. It kind of seemed a little bit too late when we realized that we need to go out and get some because they are literally off the shelves. We just didn’t know how to deal with it knowing that our baby relies on formula sometimes because I cannot produce enough milk. Thankfully, I have family in Canada.”

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She adds her family was able to pick up two cases and drive it across the border on Saturday after running out of formula the previous evening.

“We were down to one bottle,” new mom tells CityNews about her desperation.

“We literally went through a case of 50 within the week… and this is terrible to say because this is my child but trying to ration because we didn’t have enough. This is all the while that I was still wondering if [my parents] could even get [the formula] in Canada,” she said.

“With my milk supply and a growing baby, it was basically down to the wire. It was a little terrifying. I’m a new mom so I don’t know how long a baby can go without having food and he still be OK. We were just really hoping that my parents would pull through, which they did. I never thought in a million years a formula shortage would be affecting me.”

Hannah says they checked online, checking out retail giants like Amazon and Walmart, but still couldn’t find anything. “They were selling them for like $250 a box American and then in Canada, they were selling them for a box of 24, it was like $40 Canadian.”

She says they looked up alternatives but were too worried about the possible consequences of going that route.

“It just sucks that this is affecting babies who cannot even fend for themselves. It’s not like we’re getting a shortage of food for adults, we’re getting a shortage of food for babies,” she said.

“It’s just heartbreaking to know that you’re looking at your child and not only are you having a hard time looking at him or her and seeing you can’t feed your child, but he also doesn’t know anything else but to just cry.”

While speaking in the Lower Mainland on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sounded confident that Canada wouldn’t face the level of desperation here that parents are dealing with across the US.

“There are a few challenges around some more specialized formulas for, particularly, vulnerable kids. We are confident the work we are doing to secure supply from elsewhere and to ensure that Canadians have those options is going to be fine. In Canada, we’ve been monitoring carefully what the situation is. The reality is we’re still looking like we’re fine on baby formula.”

Health Canada says it’s also monitoring the situation closely and it’s working with manufacturers.

“If additional safety or supply information is identified, Health Canada will take appropriate action and inform Canadians as needed,” the federal agency says in a statement.

“Health Canada wants to assure everyone that all products imported to mitigate the shortage and for which CFIA will apply discretionary enforcement are safe. These are from countries that have regulatory and manufacturing standards that are similar to those in Canada.”

B.C. has a milk bank, but the supply is not available to parents affected by the ongoing shortage.

BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre Provincial Milk Bank has not seen an increase in demand or uptake following the baby formula shortage in Canada and the U.S. Most of the milk in our bank is given to sick babies and/or babies in the neonatal intensive care units in B.C. If families are having problems finding formula for their infant, they should check with their primary care provider for infant feeding recommendations,” says the Provincial Health Services Authority in a statement to CityNews.

Sylvain Charlebois, with the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says if the Abbott plant in Michigan, that’s been closed for months and the major reason behind this shortage re-opens in the next two weeks, it would take four to six weeks for things to get slowly back to normal.

For more information about what to do if you or someone you know is dealing with this shortage, click here.

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