When Eric and Kelly Schmidt, both 35, went to the Central Florida Target this week to buy regular baby formula, Up & Up Gentle, for their five-month-old twins, they found an empty shelf.
Then the couple embarked on a half-day trek in search of formula, and any formula, and their quest didn’t end there. “We spent over four hours going to each target, different from Walmarts WMT,
Eric Schmidt said:
Schmidt moved to Florida from New York in March in search of a lower cost of living. Erik Schmidt is working remotely as a graphic designer while Kelly just got a new job as an office manager at a local church. They were looking to stock up on formula for their next two-day trip to Walt Disney World when they encountered a nationwide infant formula shortage.
“It’s pure panic,” Kelly Schmidt said. When she saw the empty shelf, she started texting her mother, who was watching the twins. I avoided calling, although it could have been faster. She said she was not in a position to speak.
“Because I feel terrible,” she said. “And if I talk to someone now, I will cry, I will scream at her for no reason. Like something bad is going to happen. I just need to focus on what we are doing and not deal with anything else.”
The recall of Similac infant formula in February exacerbated a shortage of infant formula that began late last year due to supply chain disruptions. Across the country, parents are scrambling to find a formula amid hoarding panic, new buying restrictions and soaring prices as a result of a lack of supply.
Formula is the only safe alternative to breast milk, and making it yourself is not an option. President Joe Biden on Friday promised steps to address the shortfall, saying there was “nothing more urgent that we are working on.”
Go-to Up & Up Gentle for the Schmidt twin is TGT’s goal,
A brand of infant formula store, it is not part of Abbott’s safety recall. However, the cascading effects of the Abbott’s company recall affected the Schmidt family and their twins, Lily and Jameson, Steele. Just a week or two ago, the shortage wasn’t apparent when Eric went to the store and got his usual supplies.
“If it was the shortage at that time, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I don’t know when it actually started, and I don’t even know why or how it happened, it’s just there, empty shelves, like a ‘boom’.”
After finding their empty target shelf, and after hours of futile searching for their usual brand or something close, the Schmidt family ended up buying a carton of milk from a brand they had never tried or heard of before. It was the only thing available. Schmidts Up & Up Gentle are used to feed their twins because it does not upset their stomachs, and is cheaper than Enfamil Gentlease.
Then the search continued into the night as the two turned to the Internet. They discovered that discount supermarket chain Aldi carried a formula that was supposed to be gentle on children’s stomachs, and that there were four or five Aldi stores within a few hours’ drive of them.
The next morning, Eric was waiting for the doors at Aldi to open at 9am, with no luck. It took trips to three other stores, but around 10:30 a.m. he found what he was looking for: Little Journey Gentle, the Aldi equivalent of their regular brand.
“They only have six left. I left two on the shelf because I don’t want to be that guy,” he said.
The couple said they usually need 15 to 16 bottles of milk mixture for the twins per day, and their usual goal could be to make 36 bottles. Since the Aldi’s packaging is a bit smaller, they said the four cans they found – which required “six vigorous hours” of driving and searching online overnight – would likely keep them for about a week.
“Even without the imperfection, when he goes to the store to get enough stuff for two weeks, since we have twins, people look at him like he’s a milk-storing monster,” Kelly Schmidt said. “Now there is not enough. We do not have one child, we have two children, so we need to double the amount the average person uses.”
Target, Walmart, Aldi and Enfamil did not respond to requests for comment.
Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday that it will be able to return some infant formula products to shelves in July. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has taken measures that include importing more formula from abroad to address the shortage.
While she waits for supplies to return to normal, Kelly Schmidt said she plans to keep checking Target’s website and will be ready to order her family’s regular brand as soon as it looks like it’s been restocked. It also monitors the supply of Enfamil Gentlease, a brand the twins have used before but that’s twice the price of Target One.
The husband’s plight resonated with friends near and far. Eric Schmidt said they posted on Facebook about their situation and received messages of support, where friends promised to monitor their formula.
If the shortage continues until July, the pair is not sure what to do. Kelly said breastfeeding is not an option because her milk has dried up for months.
‘I don’t even know, get it when we find it?’ Kelly Schmidt said of how they plan to feed the twins after they consumed Aldi cans. If they can’t find more to use now, they might try some natural formulas – not the kind that’s gentler on babies’ stomachs. Although it’s not perfect, Kelly Schmidt said, it’s a choice.
“We can put them back in a normal position, and that varies with their stomachs, but at least they’ll eat,” she said.