BELL COUNTY, Texas — For months now, people across the country have been dealing with a baby formula shortage and the bad news is it hasn't gotten any better.
A website that collects product data, Datasembly, said last month baby formula was out of stock in over 30 percent of the nations stores. The report also said in the first week of April, Texas had an out of stock rate higher than 40 percent.
Mothers and guardians are trying to find ways to make sure their babies get fed properly and it's leaving some Central Texans to turn to each other.
Alleyah Gaines is a first-time mother. With her 8-month-old son, she's facing a lot of new and unknowns, but she never thought feeding her baby would be a problem.
"Would never want them to experience something like that so, it's definitely something that's not fair to them," she said.
Gaines says she has been searching for about two and a half months now, but for the past month, the options have become more scarce.
"It got to the point where I even had to reach out to my family who lives across the U.S. and say hey, like if you see this in store, can you please just send it to me," Gaines said.
She's been traveling around Central Texas looking for the necessity, but then she turned those on social media who would deliver.
"Instead of just having it sitting there going to waste, I decided to see if anybody who would need it would actually want it," said Nadette Branche who is also a mother.
Branche has been breast feeding her nearly 6-month-old daughter but knows what mothers are currently going through. She said she wanted to step in.
"It makes me feel wonderful because it honestly takes a village to help raise a kid and even though I don't know her, I would want somebody to do the same thing for me," she said.
Mother to mother, they're leaning on each other which Anna Dick, NP at Mclane Children's in Killeen recommends.
"For a lot of families, this is the only option that they have to feed their children and so it's really important that we help support those around us who have young children and are struggling," Dick said.
She says those who are in a bind and can't find formula should not try to stretch the product they have.
"What that can do, especially for the younger infants, is it can throw off their electrolyte imbalance and actually can throw them into the potential of having seizures and other significant medical complications," Dick explained.
The pediatric nurse practitioner also said it's not safe to substitute for other different types of milk, like cow’s milk, goat’s milk or other milk alternatives.
"Formula is made in a very specific way to give them exactly the nutrients and all the electrolytes that they need," she added.
She said that if parents absolutely have to substitute and are out of formula then the best option is going to be infant Pedialyte, name brand or not. But, electrolyte drinks like Powerade and Gatorade are not safe for infants.
Dick says the most important thing she wants Central Texas parents to know is that even if you can't find your specific brand or your specific type of formula -- get what you can as long as it's in line with the advice of your pediatrician.
"As long as your child is on a somewhat standard formula, the majority of them can be alternated or switched out for a different one with minimal effects to your child," she said.
6 News reached out to Texas Health and Human Services who operates Woman Infant and Children department (WIC).
A spokesperson with Texas HHS says Texas WIC is working closely with WIC grocers to help make sure there are options for WIC families to purchase. Texas WIC has added alternative options so families can find a formula at the store to meet their baby’s needs without updating their WIC card. Alternative WIC options are available through the end of May. They’re listed here.
If WIC clients cannot find the brands or sizes of formula that is currently written on their card or the alternative brands allowed, they can contact their local WIC office. Grocers that accept WIC can be found at TexasWIC.org on the Find a Store page or by using the Store Locator in the myTexasWIC app.
WIC provides formula benefits for those individuals who qualify for the WIC program. Anyone interested in learning more about how to qualify for WIC can find information at texaswic.org/apply.