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'Disheartening:' Arkansas moms feeling impact of baby formula shortage

The baby formula shortage is leaving shelves empty at stores and has Arkansas moms searching for answers as they look to feed their children.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The baby formula shortage is a national crisis-- that's how many, including Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, are describing it.

Empty shelves are leaving many moms, including those here in Arkansas, scared and scrambling.

THV11 called and reached out to plenty of places, but quickly found out that there's not much help out there for Arkansas families at the moment. 

While no one knows when those shelves could be filled again, it's putting many moms, like Alexandria James, into a scary reality.

"It's probably the most gut-wrenching feeling because as a mother, as a parent that's your main priority is to feed your child, clothe your child, bathe your child, protect your child, and you're not able to do that," James said. 

She described the quest to find food for her 11-month-old daughter Audrey as 'disheartening' and 'overwhelming.'

"It's just very scary to go into a store and you literally don't see anything, or you don't see the one that you can afford either," she said.

Much like many other moms, James is having to go to multiple stores to find formula for her baby. If the stores have any available, it's still extremely scarce. 

"That's probably the worst fear you could ever have is not being able to feed your child and it's kind of coming true right now for a lot of parents," she said.

From parents, to professionals, many of the concerns are being heard. 

As a lactation consultant, Tanya Smith is hearing many of the concerns from parents.

"This is a very serious situation that families have found themselves in and they're rightfully scared and worried," she said. 

According to Smith, unfortunately there are not many places families can turn to. 

"Unfortunately, there's there's not a lot of resources. If it's not on the shelf at Walmart and Target, there's nowhere else to get it unless you call the manufacturer directly, and that's proving to be a challenge for a lot of families right now too," she said.

While moms search for food, some are looking towards other options. With that in mind, Smith said those parents have to be careful. 

She said milk-sharing is safe but it's difficult to do and there are some risks, so it's important to know about your donors medical history. 

Smith also shared that moms should never dilute breast milk or formula, but they can mix the two if they can't produce enough milk on their own. 

She also added that if you can switch brands for your baby, you should consider it.

"As far as meeting a baby's basic needs, they're all about the same and so you can switch as you need to in a situation like this and make sure your baby gets the food that they need," Smith said.

Parents may also be googling and finding places that are labeled as a "milk depot" here in Arkansas, but those aren't actually available to local families right now. 

There are a couple of milk banks that could be opening in the future, but there's no timetable on when just yet. 

The Arkansas WIC Program also offers a breastfeeding helpline at 1-800-445-6175. According to the Department of Health, the WIC Program aims to:

"[WIC Program] Serves pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children under 5 years of age may qualify if they live in Arkansas, have a nutritional need, and an income at or below WIC guidelines, or receive Medicaid, ARKids, TEA, or SNAP."

If families are struggling to find formula for their babies, they can also contact a local county health department WIC office and ask for eligibility for the program here.