More than 700 parents contacted a freeformula.exchange hoping to find formula for their babies. Now, the Swampscott mom who started the website is working to match them with families who have an additional formula.
“In numbers alone, you can see the shortage is presenting itself as a crisis,” Keiko Zoll said. “It really paints the picture of what the supply and demand issue really looks like.”
While Zoll had hundreds of parents looking for help, she said she only had about 90 people to contact with an additional formula. As the news spreads, she hopes to find more.
Zoll said she started hearing stories of parents and caregivers paying hundreds of dollars on Facebook Marketplace and eBay for formula as a shortage emptied store shelves.
“It absolutely enraged me,” she said. “And then, at the same time, I thought back to when I was a new mom with a baby born six and a half weeks early, who needed special formula that was expensive and hard to find. And I remember how stressful this whole experience was. And it seems like such a simple thing – feeding your baby, but when there are other extenuating circumstances or things beyond your control, it’s incredibly overwhelming.
Her son is now 9 years old but the experience has stayed with her.
Zoll said she did everything she could to increase her milk supply for her baby nine years ago because she “wanted nothing more” than to exclusively breastfeed.
“I wanted to be this exclusively breastfeeding mom who looked like the image of the goddess Mother Nature. And both of my breasts were like, ‘haha, that’s not happening. Nice try,'” she said. And that doesn’t make me a failure as a person And that doesn’t make me a failure as a mother And the fact that I had the privilege and the means to be able to supplement with formula and then switching exclusively to formula is something I am deeply grateful for.
But what could she do for all those who cannot find formula milk due to the current shortage?
“I am not a formula maker. I can’t make a formula appear out of thin air, but I know how to build a website,” she said.
Her background is in nonprofit communications, so she put those skills to work.
The website allows parents and caregivers to ask for help. It also allows people with an additional plan to connect with these families.
For those who can’t give a formula, there is an option to donate $5 to help Zoll keep the site running. People can also contact their lawmakers through the website “because we need our lawmakers to step up and lead right now.”
“The Republican Party has really shown itself to be very strong as a pro-life party,” she said. “So where is the Republican-led coalition pushing President Biden to activate the Emergency Defense Production Act?”
However, just getting the word out is one of the most important aspects. She said families are contacting her not just from Massachusetts, but across the United States
And that gives families hope. Zoll said she recently received an email thanking her.
“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cry reading your site,” the email read. “I am a stressed mum just trying to feed her baby and you have warmed my heart and made me feel so grateful that there are people like you in the world. If the country was run by more people like you, we would never be in such a terrible situation. Know that you were absolutely appreciated.
That moment, she said, was humbling.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration said it was streamlining its review process to make it easier for foreign manufacturers to start shipping more preparations to the United States, according to the Associated Press. Regulators also recently reached an agreement to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its Michigan-based plant, which has been closed since February due to contamination concerns.
But the two solutions will not have an immediate effect.
It could take up to ten weeks for new Abbott products to hit stores, the AP reported. And it could also take several weeks for the formula to be imported.
CVS, Walgreens and Target also limited the amount of formula a customer could purchase.
Zoll hopes to continue helping families in the meantime.
“Feeding is better because at the end of the day, feeding our babies is a human right. Full stop,” she said.