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West Michigan moms look for solutions amidst formula shortage

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Posted at 9:36 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 22:26:03-04

CALEDONIA, Mich. — It’s a common phrase among parents that means so much more these days.

“I know they say it takes a village, but it really does, especially right now when we can’t find formula,” said Emily Smoker.

Smoker, who lives in Caledonia, has twin 7-month-old boys.

She says while she nurses one of her sons, the other, Levin, requires formula because he uses a feeding tube.

“So many people are like, ‘Well just breastfeed,’ but there’s so many reasons why moms can’t or don’t and Levi is a perfect example,” said Smoker.

For a while, Smoker pumped and used formula to add extra calories to his meals, but her supply dropped.

She needed to up Levi’s intake, so they began to use formula more, but it coincided with the Abbott Nutrition recall and the family often struggled to find cans.

“I remember one time having none and calling around,” said Smoker. “I called Rite Aid and they had one can left. I said, ‘Can you please hold it for us?!’”

A scary moment, Smoker searched for solutions and eventually found a group on social media that brings together families who need milk with those able to share it.

Levi’s food now comes from a woman in Grand Rapids.

“I connected with one mom who asked to be a regular donor,” said Smoker. “I go and see her every week.”

Bronson Health, which runs the only milk bank in West Michigan, has only seen a slight increase in inquires due to the formula shortage according to a spokesperson. However, because hospitals rely on donations to help premature and sock babies, there is no capacity to expand distribution broadly.

The Food and Drug Administration advises parents consult their healthcare provide before using another human’s breast milk.

If they sign off, the FDA stresses it comes from a source free of diseases and chemical contaminants, like illegal drugs, with other precautions take to properly handle and store it.


A tough time to raise a child, Smoker says it shows how much people care, but need help too.

“I’ve seen a big community because a lot of moms will say, ‘Well what formula do you need? Maybe I have extra and moms are mailing formula to other moms,” said Smoker. “It’s nice to be a part of that community, but we really have to get the formula back on the shelves.”

To learn more about milk donor requirements at Bronson Health, click here.

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