Baby formula shortage hits NYC parents, special needs kids hard

Babies aren’t the only ones impacted by the crippling formula crisis: Special needs kids – and their frantic parents – are also feeling the brunt.

As parents continue to trawl the bare aisles of New York stores, pharmacies are also struggling to make ends meet for the young children who have ongoing prescriptions for formula.

Roger Paganelli, the owner of the mom-and-pop Mount Carmel Pharmacy in the Bronx, told The Post he has “hundreds of patients” who are fed formula out of medical necessity – including kids who have tubes in their stomachs because they’re unable to ingest food.

“These are complex, special needs patients,” Paganelli said Thursday.

Some parents have regular, scheduled pickups for the prescription formula — but the pharmacy is now having to ration it out to make sure every child gets a portion.

“We’re trying to balance and ration as best as we can. It’s a very sensitive situation. These are hard decisions to make,” Paganelli said.

Shady Gramajo tells The Post that if the formula her mother sent from Florida doesn’t arrive on time she may need to miss work.
Provided by Shady Gramajo

“The moms are stressed. They need to feed their children. The kids need the formula. The pharmacy is the outlet of the stress and we feel their pain.”

Meanwhile, other parents are now being forced to contemplate what comes next if they do run out of formula.

Shady Gramajo, 31, of Forest Hills, Queens, told The Post she may have to miss a day of work if the formula shipment her mom has sent from Florida doesn’t arrive in time for her 3-month-old daughter.

Andeisha Carbon Halstead
Andeisha Carbon-Halstead tells The Post she had to switch to a brand of formula that costs double the usual price.
Steven Vago/NY Post

“If it doesn’t [arrive], I’m going to squeeze out every ounce of milk I have in my breasts,” Gramajo said. “I was thinking of calling out of work and having her latch all day on my nipple to try to get milk.”

Gramajo said her baby goes through eight bottles a day, but she can only produce enough breast milk for three.

She hasn’t been able to find the formula for her baby drinks, Enfamil Gentlease, anywhere in the city.

Carmel Pharmacy
Roger Paganelli, owner of Mount Carmel Pharmacy, says he has hundreds of special needs patients with formula prescriptions.
Robert Miller

“It’s very stressful because it’s not anywhere,” Gramajo said. “I live in Queens and I had to drive all the way to Manhattan and the Bronx to look for it. I spent my whole day with my baby in the car seat. We were driving for three hours.”

Andeisha Carbon-Halstead, 30, of South Bronx, told The Post she and her husband will have to cut back on their grocery bills so their kids can eat.

The mom said she was forced to switch to an organic brand of formula for her 10-month-old girl — and it’s double the price.

Baby Formula shortage
The baby formula shortage is caused by a safety recall from formula manufacturer Abbott over contamination concerns.
Helayne Seidman

“Money is going to have to be moved around from other things this month and probably next month,” she said. “We can’t move the money around for rent or medical expenses so it’s going to have to come out of our food budget.

“In order for our kids to eat, my husband and I will have to cut back.”

The shortage is the result of the Feb. 17 safety recall by formula maker, Abbott, over contamination concerns and ongoing supply chain disruptions.

It’s had a crippling effect on New Yorkers – and parents nationwide – as retailers limit the amount customers can buy and store shelves remain bare.

Doctors have been urging desperate parents to reach out to food banks, while also warning against watering down formulas or turning to online DIY recipes.

Mom-of-three, Erika Thompson, of Wallingford, Connecticut, said it’s become a full-time job trying to track down the hypoallergenic formula her baby girl needs.

She only has one small sample can left, even though friends out of state have been shipping her formula when they find it.

“You can travel everywhere — countless towns, stores, Amazon, online,” she said about finding shortages everywhere. “Honestly, it’s heartbreaking. Certain stores have absolutely nothing and now they’re limiting you. So what do you do?”

The issue has driven some parents to trade, sell and offer leftover supplies on social media.

baby formula
Parents have taken to social media in an attempt to get formula.
Robert Miller

Jennifer Kersey, 36, of Cheshire, Connecticut, said she was also down to her last can for her 7-month-old son when someone spotted her Facebook post on a group and dropped off a few sample cans.

She said she and others in the group are now helping each other by finding stores that have stock and getting formula to the mothers who need it.

Angels of Long Island, a thrift store in Patchogue, also started giving away donated cans for free on Wednesday.

As parents continue to struggle, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday that the state’s health department had stepped up communication with formula manufacturers in a bid to track production, supply and shipments.

“In close coordination with our federal partners, New York State will continue to do everything possible to support New York families in need of formula for their infants,” Hochul said. “My administration is committed to ensuring every newborn and child has access to the nutritional support they need to stay healthy.”

State GOP senators — Sue Serino, Daphne Jordan and Mike Martucci — had earlier called on the governor to take immediate action to address the shortages, including streamlining the supply chain.

“No parent should have to live in fear of not being able to find the formula they need to feed their babies,” Serino said. “This shortage and the inaction we have seen surrounding it, is absolutely unacceptable and it will take committed partners at every level to boost production.”

Baby formula shortage
Doctors have encouraged parents in need of formula to reach out to food banks.
Robert Miller

With Post wires

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