Baby formula shortage sends mothers driving dozens of miles to feed their babies

(ABC 6 News) – The pandemic, supply chain issues, and a formula recall make a recipe for stressed-out moms and potentially hungry babies.

Eliza Williams says her daughter Kaylee goes through about one can of formula a week. Williams, who lives in Austin, drove to Rochester this week where she found one store in the entire city that had the type of formula she needed.

"Either that or your paying double or triple the price using Amazon or shipping service to get it to you. It really is crazy," Williams said of the shortage.

Not all moms have the time or money to make the long drive.

"Specialized or more specific infant formulas — those are more difficult to locate. And for our WIC families they may not have the transportation they need to drive from store to store looking for something," said Wendy O’Leary, the WIC services manager for Olmsted County.

In February, Abbott Nutrition recalled some formulas from its Similac, Alimentum, and Elecare brands after five babies were reported sick.

Olmsted County has over 600 infants enrolled in its WIC program. Since the recall, Minnesota’s Woman Infants and Children program, which helps pay for nutrition for new moms and children, has expanded access to different brands of formula.

"People are coming out and supporting other moms through whatever means that we can," said Williams.

But with every mom struggling, some fear it may not be enough.

"If you find a formula you don’t want to switch it because their stomachs are just that much more sensitive than ours," Williams said.

She also says she may have to depend on her family in other parts of the Midwest to buy formula where they are and ship it to where she lives in Austin.

"It’s what we do — we just do it. Because our baby’s gotta eat. So we’re going to figure it out."