SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Parents across South Dakota are feeling the impact of the formula shortage that has been persistent since February of this year. But for low-income mothers and infants on WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) the shortage is adding extra strain to their finances.
Janet Neuhaus is the mother of four children, including 8-month-old twins on WIC. The Neuhaus family has not been able to find formula accepted by WIC for nearly two months.
“My twins are very sensitive to formula changes so finding the right type of formula has been a big issue,” Neuhaus said. “I have switched in the past and they had major stomach pains.”
Neuhaus said that in March when she could no longer find the formula she needed in Yankton, she began searching online within a six-hour radius of their home. But still, she struggled to find anything. After taking to Facebook to ask for help, Neuhaus said a distant relative contacted her that they had the formula she needed in Kansas.
“She purchased them and shipped them to me. I was so thankful and relieved it made me cry,” Neuhaus said.
For mother of five, Lindsay Laughlin, finding WIC-approved formula for her 13-month-old foster daughter has been a unique challenge. Her infant needs to be on a special formula and fortified feedings to keep her weight up and switching to another formula is not an option.
“Because it’s a specialty formula, WIC does cover it,” Laughlin said. “The problem with that is finding it on the shelves. Even though they approve it, you still have to find it.”
While WIC will cover the cost of the approved formula, not all stores accept WIC and so Laughlin is limited in where she is able to shop. If she were to find the approved formula at a store that does not accept WIC, she then has to pay out of pocket and then ask for reimbursement through WIC which can take up to several weeks.
“Every day that I have off I have spent trying to find formula,” Laughlin said. “I am always at Target, Walmart, Sunshine, everywhere looking for formula.”
Some moms have told KELOLAND News that they have left the state to find formula but for mothers on WIC, that’s not a possibility as their benefits only work in state.
“When you are down to your last two cans and you are like, ‘How am I going to feed this child?’ I literally cannot breastfeed her, I mean it’s stressful,” Laughlin said.
Mother of four, Alyssa Hamiel, lives in the Chamberlain/Oacoma area and spends her days checking the local stores for the Similac Sensitive formula needed for her 9-month-old twins. Hamiel has travelled to other towns where she has found some other brands, but not the one she was approved for through WIC.
“I made a call to my WIC office, and she gave me a rundown of what I could get, and we made the decision to switch my babies to a different formula just so I could get that one can I could find,” Hamiel said.
The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) told KELOLAND News that they recommend WIC participants contact their physicians in situations such as these to find a formula brand that works for their child and is still covered under their insurance.
The DOH added that South Dakota WIC has been working with several manufacturers to purchase formula to ‘help reduce the impact on WIC participants.’
Hamiel said that while they have been able to find some formula through friends out of state, they cannot use WIC to make the purchases and instead must pay out of pocket. She added that her family is not able to travel outside of their town to search for the formula they need.
“As a family of 6 and gas prices we just don’t have the means to do that,” Hamiel said. “I’m definitely more conscious with spending money due to this. I’ll never know when I’m going to have to purchase formula without WIC or even travel to get it.”
Hamiel said that by the time formula is expected to hit the shelves again in a few months, her family will be transitioning the twins off of formula and no longer need it.
“I’m very thankful we are towards the end of needing formula and praying for those families who have younger babies or may be pregnant and delivering soon,” Hamiel said.