‘It’s pure panic’: Florida parents of twins spent more than 4 hours driving to find baby formula

When Erik and Kelly Schmidt, both 35, went into a Central Florida Target store this week to buy their usual baby food, Up & Up Gentle, for their five-month-old twins, they found an empty shelf.

The pair then embarked on a half-day journey in search of formula, any formula, and their search didn’t end there. “We spent over four hours visiting every Target, several Walmarts WMT,
different supermarkets, just can’t find anything at all,” said Erik Schmidt.

The Schmidts moved to Florida from New York in March in search of a lower cost of living. Erik Schmidt works remotely as a graphic designer, while Kelly just got a new job as an office administrator at a local church. They were looking for formula for an upcoming two-day trip to Walt Disney World when they encountered the nationwide baby food shortage.

“It’s pure panic,” Kelly Schmidt said. Seeing the empty shelf, she started texting her mother, who was watching the twins. She avoided calling, even if it would have been faster. She was unable to speak, she said.

“Because I’m going crazy,” she said. “And now if I happen to talk to someone, I’m going to cry, I’m going to yell at her for no reason. Like something bad is going to happen. I just need to focus on what we’re doing and not worry about anything else. †

Abbott’s ABT,
recall of Similac baby food in February exacerbated a baby food shortage that started late last year due to supply chain disruptions. Across the country, parents are looking for a formula amid panic, new purchase restrictions and rising prices due to the supply shortage.

Bottle feeding is considered the only safe alternative to breast milk, and making your own is not an option. President Joe Biden on Friday pledged steps to address the deficit, saying there was “nothing more urgent that we are working on.”

The go-to Up & Up Gentle of the Schmidt twins is a Target TGT,
store brand of baby food, and it is not part of Abbott’s safety reminder. But the ripple effects of Abbott’s recall hit the Schmidts and their twins, Lily and Jameson, nonetheless. A week or two ago, the shortage wasn’t clear when Erik went to the store and got the usual stock.

“If the deficit was then, it wasn’t so bad,” he said. “I don’t know when it really started. I don’t even know why or how it happened. It’s just there, empty shelves, like ‘boom’.”

After finding the empty Target shelf and after hours of fruitless searching for their regular brand or anything close by, the Schmidts finally bought a can of formula from a brand they’d never tried or heard of. . It was the only thing available. The Schmidts use Up & Up Gentle to feed their twins because it doesn’t upset their stomachs, and it’s cheaper than Enfamil Gentlease.

The search then continued into the night when the two went online. They found that the discount supermarket chain Aldi sells a formula that is supposed to be gentle on babies’ stomachs, and that there were four or five Aldi stores within a few hours’ drive.

The next morning at 9 am Erik was waiting at an Aldi for the doors to open. No luck. He had to go 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 had six left. I left two on the shelf because I didn’t want to be ‘that guy,’ he said.

Jameson and Lily Schmidt, five-month-old twins, usually take bottles made with Up & Up Gentle baby food, but this one has been selling out in Target stores for the past few days. The twins’ parents spent hours driving and searching online for the formula, or anything close.

Thanks to Erik Schmidt

The pair said they usually need 15 to 16 bottles of the twins’ formula mix a day, and their usual Target can makes 36 bottles. With Aldi’s slightly smaller packaging, they said the four cans they found — requiring “a solid six hours” of driving around and searching online at night — will likely last them about a week.

“Even without the shortage, when he goes to the store to get stuff for two weeks because we have twins, people look at him like a monster like he’s hoarding some formula,” Kelly Schmidt said. ‘Now there isn’t enough. We don’t have one baby, we have two babies, so we need double the amount a normal person would use.”

Target, Walmart, Aldi and Enfamil did not respond to requests for comment.

Abbott Laboratories said on Wednesday it should be able to get a number of baby food products on its shelves in July. In the meantime, the Biden administration has taken steps, including importing more formulas from abroad to address the shortfall.

While she waits for supplies to return to normal, Kelly Schmidt said she plans to continue checking the Target website and will be ready to order her family’s regular brand as soon as it appears to be restocked. She’s also keeping an eye on the supply of Enfamil Gentlease, a brand the twins have used before, but that’s twice the price of the Target brand.

The couple’s plight resonated with friends near and far. They posted on Facebook about their situation and received messages of support, with friends promising to keep an eye on the formula for them, Erik Schmidt said.

If the shortage lasts until July, the couple isn’t sure what they’ll do next. Breastfeeding isn’t an option, Kelly said, because her milk had dried up for months.

‘I don’t even know, will you get it when we find it? Kelly Schmidt shared how they plan to feed the twins after they use up the Aldi cans. If they can’t find more of what they’re using now, maybe they’ll try regular formula — not the kind that’s gentle on babies’ stomachs. While it’s not perfect, it’s an option, Kelly Schmidt said.

“We could put them back on a regular. It won’t agree with their stomachs, but at least they’ll eat,” she said.

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