The Wabash Valley has not been immune to the national baby formula shortage.

“I think it’s having a huge impact on the Wabash Valley” and surrounding counties, said Breanna Smith-Trimble, who recently started a Facebook page called Formula Finders to help connect families with needed baby formula.

The Sullivan County resident started the page after becoming aware of the problem and it initially included 10 moms that she knows. Now, the public group has 411 members, including families from Kentucky, Illinois and northern Indiana.

Smith-Trimble, who has three children, isn’t personally affected by the shortage, but she learned from clients of her photography side business about the problem.

“A lot of my parents were talking about how stressful it was not being able to find formula,” she said. “I didn’t know there was a shortage … I just couldn’t imagine being a mom and going and seeing a bare shelf.” What she and others do is upload photos onto the Facebook page — including date and time — of formula availability at stores they visit.

The problem is especially great for those who need hypoallergenic formula, which appears to be the hardest to find, she said. In recent visits to stores, she said she’s been seeing more formula on shelves, but not enough of the hypoallergenic or other specialty formula.

“If anybody needs help, let us know, we can see what we can find,” she said.

She’s also aware of the formula shortage affecting families whose children use feeding tubes.

At Union Hospital, nurse and lactation consultant Jenny Wright said last week, “We are seeing and hearing there is a shortage of baby formula here in the Wabash Valley. If you go to the stores, you can see they look pretty bare.”

Parents and moms have been calling the lactation department with different questions, such as how can they get formula, are there other things they can feed babies or can they start breastfeeding again, she said.

For those who meet income qualifications, she encourages them to sign up for the Women, Infants and Children program, which can assist with babies’ nutritional needs, including formula.

Moms also can reach out to their pediatricians or doctors for assistance in obtaining formula.

“They can reach out to us if they want to breastfeed,” Wright said. Union offers the Blooming Babies breastfeeding clinic, which provides outpatient services for women regardless of the baby’s age.

Wright discourages watering down formula, which “can cause great health issues with their babies,” she said.

She also recommends against homemade formula. Factory-made formula has the correct nutrients and vitamins a baby needs to grow properly. “We are here to support these moms in whatever they need from us,” Wright said.

The lactation office can be reached at 812-238-4985 or 812-238-7857. Meanwhile, Mindi Wrin, WIC coordinator at Western Indiana Community Action Agency, said the office hasn’t experienced the volume of calls one might expect given the national attention to the issue. “What we’ve noticed with clients calling in, which has been going on for a little while, there has been intermittent shortages with certain [formulas],” she said.

“We’ve been able to navigate it so far and help clients find one or work with doctors to find a comparable formula.”

“While there is a shortage … we’ve been able to so far locate formula for babies,” she said. The federal WIC nutrition program is for children, newborns up to age 5, prenatal women and postpartum women. It offers specific food packages to fit nutritional needs. It also does breastfeeding support and offers lactation consultants for free; it also can provide formula for those babies that need it.

The state has been flexible in opening up more options not previously available for purchase of formula, for example the ability to use store brands that are comparable to name brands, Wrin said. So far, the WIC office has been able to meet the needs, she said. The local WIC office serves Vigo, Sullivan and Parke counties.

Wrin is hopeful that “we won’t see the worst of it that some locations are.”
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