Baby formula shortage: Mother with 3 premature newborn babies faces challenges

Lana Shah’s triplets — Lily, Anya and Kian — were born two months early in Broward County and she is facing the difficulties of the ongoing baby formula shortage.

Shah said the neonatal intensive care unit had a special formula, a milk product with more nutrients to help the babies gain weight. Her babies need both breast milk and formula.

“It’s not enough, not for triplets,” Shah said about breastfeeding.

Abbott Nutrition, the country’s largest producer of baby formula in Michigan, closed in February — after a safety recall of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare. Salmonella and Cronobacter sakazakiim, a bacteria that can cause blood infections, were detected.

The FDA investigated infections in Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio. Hypoallergenic varieties have been especially hard to find. Dr. Ruben Gonzalez-Vallina is asking parents who find the formula not to dilute it.

“They can go into anaphylactic shock. They can develop seizures [and] vomiting because it might be too diluted or too concentrated,” said Gonzalez-Vallina, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

The Food and Drug Administration eased importation requirements. With several military delivery flights, President Joe Biden’s “Operation Fly Formula” aims to bring relief to mothers like Shah.

A U.S. Air Force plane picked up the first of 1.5 million 8-ounce baby bottles of three types of specialty medical grade infant formula from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The plane delivered the supply to Indianapolis where FedEx semi tractor-trailers will take it to Nestle’s distribution center.

It will take a while for the supply to make it to supermarkets.

“Life throws you a wrench and you just keep going, call for help,” Shah said.

She said there is a “tribe of moms” and friends who are searching stores all over the country.

“We went from Jupiter all the way to Port St. Lucie. We went to 12 stores, and to see these desperate parents, it’s heartbreaking,” Sha’s friend Bridget Grimes said.

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