In the small town of Richland, Ga., where Sandra James, 36, lives, there is only one grocery store. In the past few months, she has not been able to find specialty baby formula for her 8-month-old son, Kenson, who breaks out in hives and loses his hair when he drinks dairy-based formulas.
At first, she checked five Walmarts nearby, driving around for hours after she got off work until she found the special formula she needed. She has sometimes gone to five or six stores a day as far away as Alabama before she can find a can.
In the meantime, she is giving her son more water and mashed-up vegetables to try to make his formula last longer.
“It’s just draining, very draining,” she said.
Parents who have tried to buy online said they have encountered not only higher prices, but scams. Two weeks ago, K-Rae Knowles 30, of Oregon, Ill., sent money to a stranger in exchange for cans of a specialty formula she needed for her 4-month-old son, Callan. The can never came, she said, and the seller’s Facebook profile was deleted a few days later.
“People are being extra careful now,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking that people are preying on this kind of shortage.”
In San Antonio, Ms. Marquez said she never thought she would be relying on baby formula to keep her daughter healthy at such an advanced age. But then her daughter de ella received her diagnosis, and she was told that the special formula was the only thing that would keep her out of a hospital.
Since early April, she has been supplementing her nutrition with fruit, vegetables, ground turkey and other plant-based proteins.