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MONEY MAY: Southeast Texas parents scrambling to feed babies amid recalls, supply chain shortages

Baby formula is scarce in stores, and parents are desperately trying to find food for their babies.

BEAUMONT, Texas — A multitude of issues going on around the globe have led to shortages that have Texas parents scrambling to keep their babies fed.

Baby formula is scarce in stores, and parents are desperately trying to find food for their babies. Recalls and supply chain issues have made the task almost impossible.

Manufacturers are struggling to keep the product on the shelves. Desperate times are calling for desperate measures. 

Texas non-profits are making sure that parents do not break the bank buying overpriced online formula or risk their baby’s health by attempting to make formula at home.

There are many safe, affordable, and accessible resources out there for parents. One alternative formula is breastmilk, but not all mothers can produce milk of their own.

More on: How to receive breast milk or become a breast milk donor

That is where Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin comes in. The organization provides human milk to premature babies in the hospital and babies at homes.

All a parent needs is a prescription from their physician stating they need donor milk. The organization goes to great lengths to make sure milk given to parents is safe for babies.

All breast milk is pasteurized to kill any bacteria and make it safe for consumption. Also, all donors have to undergo extensive testing to be able to donate.

“There are some common diagnoses that we look for so that you can seek insurance coverage for this. It can be anything such as having a baby that's preterm, if they have formula intolerance failure to thrive anything like that,” Kara Michael, lactation consultant said.

Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin also offers a financial assistance program. Those who would like to become a breast milk donor can visit the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin website or call them at 512-494-0800.

“I think that should give mom's who are receiving milk comfort that there is a very strict protocol not just anyone can donate breastmilk and that there's a lot of extensive testing," Michael said.

There are more options for parents struggling to find formula for their babies throughout Southeast Texas.

Low-income families or babies under Medicaid may qualify for the WIC program. This can give parents access to free or discounted formula.

“If you are a WIC participant, there are certain specialty formulas, the majority of them that we are able to order through our vendors,” Fernando Mejia, WIC dietician, said. "Keep in mind a lot of Similac manufacturing plants are not making certain products right now, and WIC will offer alternatives that fit your baby's needs."

More on: How to apply for the WIC program

There is a WIC center in every county in Southeast Texas. Community members can call or visit to request baby formula. WIC members will set up an appointment with parents to get it ordered.

“And then once it comes in, we call you and contact you to come pick up the formula,” Mejia said.

For parents who are not WIC participants. There are other resources.

Pathfinder Pediatric Home Care offers NeoSure along with other specialty formulas. The Hope Women’s Resource Clinic will take appointments and provide parents with their baby’s health care needs.

Parents can also talk to their child's pediatrician about which alternative formulas may meet their infant's needs.

“Generic formula is just as good as an option as name brand formula,” Mejia said. “You do want to check with your pediatrician and make sure to let them know what brands you are able to find in the store.”

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