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Moms turn to social media for help amid baby formula shortage

HUIZENG HU/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Mothers around the country are turning to social media and leaning on each other for support as the national baby formula shortage continues to strain families in multiple states.

Alleyah Gaines is a first-time mom who’s had difficulty trying to find baby formula for her 7-month-old baby Kairo.

"I even went as far as traveling outside of my city to try to find it and I still couldn't locate it," Gaines told ABC News' Good Morning America.

Gaines went online to try to find a solution for her child and that’s where she found a local Facebook group in the Killeen, Texas, area where she and her family live and connected with Nadette Branche, another mom in the group.

Branche just so happened to have extra baby formula at home and posted about it in the Facebook group.

“When I was pregnant, people had given me boxes with formula in them,” Branche explained to GMA. “But I produce enough milk for my baby and I really didn't have any use for it.”

Gaines noticed Branche’s post and knew she had to reach out.

”I quickly commented and I was like, you know, ‘Can I please get this formula?’ And she was like, ‘Yes, of course,’" Gaines recalled. “I just was so ecstatic.”

The baby formula shortage has only grown in the last three months, with the crisis compounded by pandemic-related supply chain issues and a recall by Abbott Nutrition, one of the leading baby formula manufacturers in February.

Abbott, which makes the popular baby formula products under the Similac brand and specialized formulas Alimentum and EleCare, said this week it plans to resume production at its Sturgis, Michigan, facility once it gets FDA approval after a recall in February shut the plant down.

The White House said Thursday the Department of Agriculture was relaxing restrictions for those receiving Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC benefits and letting them use their benefits for more baby formula products and asking stores to loosen regulations around baby formula product stock. On Friday, ABC News also exclusively learned that the House Oversight Committee was launching an investigation into the national baby formula shortage.

For Jae Coleman of Seattle, baby formula for her 5-month-old twin boys has been nearly impossible to find in her area.

“I found myself going to eight to 10 grocery stores just to find formula for him,” Coleman said. “It really frustrates me to see that there are people who don't have their basic needs met.”

Coleman’s experience led her to start a Facebook group called “Find My Formula,” which helps parents and caregivers find and distribute baby formula products to those in need. Since April, the group has grown to more than 550 members.

“This has become a full-time job for me,” Coleman said. “It really keeps me going. It really reminds me that this is needed and this is necessary.”

Moms told GMA that people looking for baby formula should check local mom groups online, where parents may be swapping formula, giving away extra formula they may have, or sharing which stores they’ve been able to find formula. They also suggested asking friends and family members in other states to help search for formula in their local stores.

Dr. Steven Abrams, a professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, told GMA previously that parents can ask their child’s pediatrician and local hospitals for help.

"It's harder for people who are more isolated from cities or more rural, and that's where they can look online. If it's one of those super-specialized formulas like EleCare, sometimes the pediatrician will be able to connect them with a formula representative that can help them. Sometimes the hospital may have a small supply they can use," Abrams said.

And when it comes to baby formula, doctors and experts say parents and caregivers should remember never to dilute or try to make their own homemade formula, as the nutrient makeup of the formula may not be sufficient and can be dangerous or life-threatening for babies.

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