“Terrifying and frustrating:’ Richland family sees effects of nationwide baby formula shortage

RICHLAND, Wash. — MacKenzie Jaehnert came into the world three months early, weighing only about two pounds. To her parents, Emily and Mac, she is “everything.”

Since she was born prematurely, MacKenzie spent the first part of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Seattle.

She is now a happy five-month-old living in Richland. But because she’s a “preemie” MacKenzie requires extra nutrients and specialized baby formulas to keep her growing healthy and strong.

However, with a nationwide shortage of formula and multiple safety brand recalls, finding those particular brands is proving to be difficult for the Jaehnerts — something they say is “terrifying and frustrating.”

“Not being able to find something that’s going to keep our kid healthy is a fear we didn’t understand we would be facing after we faced so many just getting her to where she is,” Emily said. “It’s scary.”

MacKenzie’s doctors require her to be formula-fed as breastfeeding wouldn’t provide those necessary nutrients.

“We don’t have a choice if I naturally could feed her on my own,” Emily said. “We need the formula. We don’t have natural ways to provide her with the nutrition that she needs.”

Mac noted that he spends his days driving to multiple grocery stores across the Tri-Cities, searching for MacKenzie’s formula.

“It doesn’t give you a lot of hope. You would turn around the corner and you’d see an empty shelf,” Mac said. “Unfortunately, there’s no alternative.”

Thankfully, friends across the country have stepped in to help by mailing cans of the required formula. Mac’s father was even able to bring six cans over Mother’s Day weekend after flying in from Milwaukee.

But the Jaehnerts said they shouldn’t be facing these kinds of challenges just to be able to feed their daughter.

Kerissa Miller, a Tri-Cities mother who is currently expecting, agrees, adding that she faces daily tribulations trying to find the right baby formula for her child.

“There is no proper way to describe the fear of not being able to feed your baby,” Miller said. “My son is a severe preemie and requires a special formula and can hardly tolerate any others. When the recall happened it shook me to my core as his formula was on the list and every day since it’s been a battle of checking online to see if other moms have extras they can share.”

That’s why Miller decided to create this Change.org petition to help “bring awareness to the shortage and try to have formula added to the emergency pandemic manufacturing act of 2021 so the government can amp up funding and help provide extra resources to fill the shelves.”

She also made this Facebook group for parents in the Tri-Cities needing formula as a way to come together as a community to help their babies.

“It’s all a nightmare all moms can’t wait to wake up from,” Miller said.

Miller and the Jaehnerts are just some of the millions of parents being affected by the nationwide shortage.

Currently, multiple big-box retailers are limiting the number of formula cans one can buy in the store. The Food and Drug Administration is also advising parents to stay away from making formula at home as they work to address the increasing demands.

Despite all of the obstacles, the Jaehnerts said the struggles are worth it for their baby girl.

“She inspires us to smile through the storm clouds and that really means a lot to us at times like this.”

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