‘I’m Terrified’: Tampa Bay Parents Demand Solution to Baby Formula Shortage

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – A nationwide shortage of baby formula has Florida families fuming. Parent’s tell CW44 News they are constantly in search of formula, but store shelves across the region are coming up empty.

“[If] we don’t have formula, we don’t feed our kids,” explained Tampa Bay mom and local nurse Kimberly Culbertson. With two young children, she expected some sleepless nights but she didn’t expect it to be because of baby formula.

“It’s literally getting to the point where there isn’t any left! It’s hypoallergenic, it’s Nutramigen, it’s literally every kind of formula out there! My kid is a big boy, he eats like 36 ounces a day. That’s a tub every four days. I’m only allowed to get two tubs in a week. What if a hurricane happens and we don’t have enough to feed our kid?!”

She says she’s been driving upwards of two hours, constantly checking grocery shelves for Enfamil – the brand her children use – so she can get by for the week. But when competing brand Abbott Nutrition recalled three products including Similac in February, many turned to Enfamil instead.

“It didn’t affect us at all at first and then everybody switched from Similac to Enfamil so now I can’t find it anywhere,” she says third party sellers are on the prowl. “And then I’ll get private messages, ‘oh I have formula, it’s going to be $56 a tub.’ And I’m like, ‘it’s $32 at Publix’. It’s on Facebook Marketplace, it’s all over. We’re being sucked into doing it.”

Because local stores are limiting amounts of baby formula for customers, CW44’s Andrea Alvarez turned to local pediatrician, Dr. Rachel Dawkins who says it’s safe to switch brands if you can find it.

“Above six months, they might be trying some complimentary foods and that can definitely supplement the amount of formula that they’re using, but usually doesn’t totally replace,” explained Dr. Dawkins.  But risk of bacteria and lack of calcium are reasons to avoid making formula at home. “We know that there are recipes out there, but it’s not safe.”

Medical experts also recommend parents avoid diluting baby formula, or adding extra water to make the formula go further. Dr. Dawkins says this can cause electrolyte imbalances and decreases the amount of calories baby’s receive.

Another tip, Culbertson says, that only takes her so far.

“If you don’t have gas in your car, you don’t go to work but you can still eat. My kid doesn’t get formula, he’s not eating. And when I only have three or four days left, I’m terrified. It’s something I actually do worry about it constantly now.”