New Yorkers share their tips for finding baby formula as shortage moves toward its fourth month

“I started to notice a trend where there are certain states where there is a plethora of formula available and fully stocked inventory of baby formula, and then there’s this plethora of states where they are completely out,” said Riles, noting that New York is among the states where she has been getting a lot of requests.

According to federal data, New York consistently ranks in the top five states in terms of total births per year. In 2020, the latest year with numbers, New Yorkers had more than 209,000 newborn mouths to feed. New York wasn’t among the states hardest hit by the formula shortage as of last week, according to a Bloomberg report. But about 69% of stores were out of stock.

Toni Mieses, a new mom who lives in Washington Heights, said she has eschewed social media in favor of having hawk-eyed family members keep a look out for formula around the city. Initially, Mieses used a Walmart brand her pediatrician recommended. But about six weeks ago, the store stopped allowing online purchases, and Mieses didn’t have a Walmart nearby.

She switched to a Target brand, but had a similar problem.

“I would say about a month ago, that’s when it really started dwindling on the shelves,” Mieses said.

Now her daughter takes Enfamil, a brand Mieses’ mom was able to find in a supermarket in East Harlem, near her work. She said her mom, grandmother and stepfather have been on the lookout for the formula in other stores and have asked their local supermarkets to set aside cans for them.

“So I feel a little bit more confident now,” Mieses said.

While some babies require specialty formulas, in most cases it’s OK for healthy babies to switch formula brands, said Dr. Andrea Deierlein, a nutritional and reproductive epidemiologist at the NYU School of Public Health.

“There just might be a little bit of a transitional period,” she said. “But formulas are very highly regulated in terms of what ingredients they have to have in them. So if you’re just comparing formulas in terms of the vitamins and minerals and the different nutrient composition, they are very similar.”

Still, the formula shortage is having real consequences for children’s nutrition. Pediatrician Dr. Taisha Benjamin serves as chief medical officer for the Community Healthcare Network, which operates clinics for low-income patients across the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

Benjamin said one of her patients was taking Similac NeoSure, a brand for premature babies that delivers more calories than regular formula. The brand was not recalled, but still became hard to find due to the squeeze. The child’s mother switched to regular formula as a result.

“The baby may not gain enough weight,” Benjamin said, “but something is better than nothing.”

New Yorkers share their tips for finding baby formula as shortage moves toward its fourth month

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