I Can’t Get Formula So I’m Breastfeeding… Again

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When the first cans from my formula subscription arrived on our doorstep just over a month ago, I finally felt physical relief. I had made the decision to gradually let go of breastfeeding my four-month-old twins upon returning to work—and I felt confident about it.

In no working world would I realistically be able to pump or feed every hour or so for 20 minutes, which is what my body requires to produce a healthy supply for both babies. I made a thoughtful choice to depend on formula to nourish my children. And then the shortage happened.

Now, the specialty formula my premature twins rely on, Similac NeoSure, is out of stock just about everywhere. Now, I wonder how my children will eat. My own pediatrician could not recommend a particular alternative, and nearby doctor’s offices were similarly out of options.

When the news first came out, I moved fast. As a result of my privilege, I was able to rush an upcoming Amazon subscription order, order three more cans at BuyBuyBABY, and buy three cans (there was a limit) of NeoSure at a Walmart an hour away. I also tried to lock down a Facebook Marketplace ad, but I was not the first parent in line. I spent over $500 in one day desperately trying to stock up.

I felt immense guilt about hoarding formula, but after all of that, my Amazon subscription didn’t come, and the cans I had purchased with a shipment date of May 15 never made it. I had only three more small cans, which would last about a week with my twins.

Somehow, the Facebook Marketplace ad worked, but only after days of communication when the first interested parent didn’t show up in New Jersey from upstate New York to pick up the formula. It worked after I Venmo’d hundreds of dollars to a total stranger, hoping these were fresh, unopened cans, as promised. They were, and I am truly grateful for that; it was a dad of triplets who sold them to me. But there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of parents who have been scammed out of money during this shortage. And the worst part is, that may have been the only money they had for formula.

I’ve been having dreams about babies starving, crying, and getting sick. And then I see it in the news—the allergy rashes babies are getting from trying formula alternatives and the seizures caused by watered-down formula (a desperate act by well-intentioned parents trying to stretch their supply).

Now, every time I feed the twins formula, I experience a wave of thoughts and emotions. I pop open the can, and as I scoop up the powder, I fill it a little less than I usually would. Just allowing for a bit more fluff and air—nothing significant. But that one action puts a pit in my stomach.

I should be providing for my children, giving them more than enough, and yet I’m negotiating if I have too generous a scoop. I shake the bottles and, like clockwork, wonder what other moms must feel like when they scrape the bottom of their formula can and shake the last bottle for their baby. I wonder if that mom will be me in a few weeks.

It’s why I’ve reversed course with weaning. I am now stocking up on lactation supplements and relying on other moms I don’t even know from breastfeeding support groups to school me on how to increase my milk supply again—an act that simply isn’t possible for many mothers and which absolutely no one should feel forced to do.

A friend is going to be mad at me for not attending her bachelorette party in another state this weekend, but the weekend is the only time I have to fully focus on breastfeeding to re-up my supply (in addition to breastfeeding every morning, pumping through my lunch break and doing a combination of the two through the night). It’s hard work my non-mom friends could never imagine, let alone understand the sense of urgency I feel during a formula shortage with two babies at home. I still have close relatives who haven’t met my babies, but any spare minute I have, my boobs are out, and it’s not an ideal time for guests.

There are the massive hormonal changes that come with stopping and starting breastfeeding, so I’ve been managing that rollercoaster. And the longer, uninterrupted nights together my partner and I had just started to appreciate? Those are gone as well.

The decision I once made to move forward as a working mom and let go of breastfeeding was entirely undone, and I’m still learning how much dedication it takes to do both.

At this point, I’m just grateful that I can.

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