Gillette residents help each other through milk shortage

GILLETTE — Four months ago, Tristen Bundy had her first child. With the birth of her daughter, Blakely, Bundy has been faced with the anxiety and stress that often accompanies new parents.

The ongoing formula shortage has exacerbated those struggles, as she’s had to make do with little to no formula on store shelves.

“As a first-time mom you never know what to expect but you always expect to at least feed and provide a home for your baby,” Bundy said. “It’s heartbreaking to not even be able to provide the basic needs.”

The formula shortage that has been impacting families throughout the country since February has also made its presence known through many families in Gillette.

Blakely was born in January, right before Abbott Laboratories, a large infant formula producer, closed its Michigan plant and recalled many of its infant formula products due to reports of bacterial infections in four babies who consumed its products.

Since then, a lack of formula has persisted throughout the country.

Bundy initially tried to nurse Blakely but could only produce about 3 ounces of milk a day. To help with her mental health and to provide Blakely with all of the nutrition she needed, Bundy supplements with formula.

But since mid-February that has been almost impossible at times. Even traveling outside of Gillette, she said there’s little to no formula available throughout the state.

“It seemed to be you could find things every now and then but now there’s literally nothing,” she said.

She is a part of a Facebook group called Campbell County Formula Finder, which has about 40 people. Everyone in the group helps to look out for whenever formula hits the shelves throughout the county.

At 9 a.m. one day, someone posted that Smith’s had formula in stock. When Bundy went at about 2 p.m. that afternoon, all of the formula was gone. She’s shared what formula she can with members of her church and friends. Even acquaintances she hasn’t talked to in years have reached out to ask if she’ll keep an eye out for specific formulas, as well.

Most pediatricians recommend that babies transition to regular milk at about a year old and solid foods at about six months.

Maddyson Kinsey also experienced an incredible scare, when she and her family had to life flight their ten-month old son Duttyn to Billings, Montana.

The doctor said that the switching of formulas could have been a factor in the inflammation of his gut.

“It was awful,” Kinsey recounted of the 24 hours spent holding her baby, while he refused to eat. “Then he was stretched on a gurney and flown away.”

Duttyn fully recovered after receiving an air enema that unfolded the inside-out section of his bowel. Since then he’s done well but Kinsey said the family continues to bounce around between Walgreens, Walmart and Albertsons to try and keep even a small supply of formula on hand.

The cost of formula has risen for them as well, since often the only formulas left will be the hypoallergenic or name brand formulas. She said it’s costing them about the same amount of money to feed Duttyn each month as it does to feed their two horses.

Last week, the Wyoming Women, Infants and Children expanded its coverage options to try and help alleviate some of the costs to mothers throughout the state.

“We were able to expand some of the brands (of formula) that families can purchase and the size so that they can hopefully find a substitute to buy,” said Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti.

She said the issue continues to be statewide and that “Wyoming is not immune.”

For now, it seems like there’s no end in sight. Bundy said that since her daughter is still so young, the struggle seems like it will continue for a long time.

“I still have so much longer to go,” she said.