When Erik and Kelly Schmidt, both 35, walked into a Central Florida Target store this week to buy their usual Up & Up Gentle baby formula for their five-month-old twins, they found a empty shelf.
The couple then embarked on a half-day journey in search of a formula, any formula, and their quest didn’t stop there. “We spent over four hours visiting each target, different WMT Walmarts,
different grocery stores, finding absolutely nothing,” said Erik Schmidt.
The Schmidts moved from New York to Florida in March in search of a lower cost of living. Erik Schmidt works remotely as a graphic designer while Kelly has just gotten a new job as an office administrator at a local church. They were looking to stock up on formula for an upcoming two-day trip to Walt Disney World when they ran into the national baby formula shortage.
“It’s pure panic,” Kelly Schmidt said. When she saw the empty shelf, she started texting her mother, who was watching the twins. She avoided calling, even though it would have been quicker. She was in no condition to speak, she said.
“Because I’m freaking out,” she said. “And if I happen to talk to someone right now, I’m going to cry, I’m going to yell at them for no reason. Like something bad is going to happen. I just have to focus on what we’re doing and don’t worry about anything else.”
The recall of Similac infant formula in February exacerbated an infant formula shortage that began late last year due to supply chain disruptions. Across the country, parents are scrambling to find a formula amid panic hoarding, new buying restrictions and rising prices due to shortages.
Formula is considered the only safe alternative to breast milk, and making your own is not an option. President Joe Biden on Friday promised action to address the shortage, saying there was “nothing more urgent that we are working on.”
Up & Up Gentle by the Schmidt twins is a Target TGT,
brand of the formula store, and it’s not part of Abbott’s safety recall. Yet the ripple effects of Abbott’s recall still hit the Schmidts and their twins, Lily and Jameson. Just a week or two ago, the shortage wasn’t evident when Erik went to the store and got the usual supply.
“If the shortage was there, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I don’t know when it actually started, I don’t even know why or how it happened, it’s just there, empty shelves, like ‘boom’.”
After finding the Target shelf empty and after hours of fruitless searching for their usual brand or something close to it, the Schmidts ended up buying a box of formula from a brand they had never tried or heard of. previously. It was the only thing available. The Schmidts use Up & Up Gentle to feed their twins because it doesn’t upset their stomachs and it’s cheaper than Enfamil Gentlease.
The search then continued into the night as the two went online. They discovered that the discount supermarket chain Aldi has a formula that is supposed to be gentle on babies’ stomachs and that there were four or five Aldi stores within a few hours’ drive of them.
The next morning, Erik was waiting for the doors of an Aldi to open at 9am. No chance. It took trips to three other stores, but around 10:30 a.m. he found what he was looking for: Little Journey Gentle, the Aldi equivalent of their usual brand.
“They only had six left. I left two on the shelf because I didn’t want to be ‘that guy,'” he said.
The couple said they usually need 15 to 16 bottles of formula mix for the twins a day, and their usual target is 36 bottles. With Aldi’s packaging slightly smaller, they said the four cans they found – which took a “good six hours” of driving and searching online overnight – will likely keep them for around a week. .
“Even without the shortage, when he goes to the store to buy stuff for two weeks, because we have twins, people look at him like a freak like he’s hoarding formula,” Kelly Schmidt said. “Now there aren’t enough. We don’t have one baby, we have two babies, so we need double the amount a normal person would use.
Target, Walmart, Aldi and Enfamil did not respond to requests for comment.
Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it should be able to return some infant products to shelves in July. In the meantime, the Biden administration has rolled out measures including importing more formula from overseas to address the shortage.
While waiting for supplies to return to normal, Kelly Schmidt said she plans to continue checking Target’s website and will be ready to order her family’s regular brand as soon as it appears to be restocked. She also monitors the supply of Enfamil Gentlease, a brand the twins have used before but costs twice the price of Target’s.
The couple’s fate resonated with friends near and far. They posted their situation on Facebook and received messages of support, with friends promising to keep an eye on the formula for them, Erik Schmidt said.
If the shortage continues into July, the pair don’t know what they will do. Breastfeeding is not an option, Kelly said, as her milk dried up months ago.
“I don’t even know, get it when we find it?” Kelly Schmidt explained how they plan to feed the twins after they run out of Aldi cans. If they can’t find more of what they’re currently using, they can try a normal formula – not one that’s gentle on the stomach babies. While it’s not perfect, it’s an option, Kelly Schmidt said.
“We could hand them a regular meal, it won’t sit well with their stomachs, but at least they’ll eat,” she said.