BILLINGS — As Brenda Segna cares for her three-month-old foster child, there’s one major worry on her mind. It's a new challenge this foster mom has never faced in her nine years of caring for children.
“You know, I’m scared a little bit because there’s no food,” Segna said recently.
The foster child was born premature at just three pounds so, “she’s medically fragile, you can’t just pick up something and put it in her body.”
Formula shortages have been a problem for the parents of young children nationwide for months, including in Montana. Part of the reason was a shutdown of a plant in Michigan, which has since reopened. Nevertheless, parents are still struggling to find formula at a reasonable price.
In addition to being born premature, Segna's foster child was recently put on a dairy-free formula, Nutramigen. That made what previously was hard to find almost impossible for Segna.
“Drove, literally drove, to every store in town that I could. That one was even harder to find than the (previous formula) Neosure,” she said.
Kate Monger is the nutrition coordinator for the Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) program at RiverStone Health and said specialty formulas, like Nutramigen, are crucial for some babies.
“They do need a more specialized formula such as a hypoallergenic one or one that’s designed for the preterm babies,” Monger said.
Monger said that lately, those formulas have been tough to find.
“Sometimes that’s the only option. So, the families are having a really, really difficult time finding some of those specialty formulas right now, unfortunately,” she said.
Monger advises anyone struggling to find a formula to "keep their doctors in the loop" on what they can find for their babies.
Segna’s current supply of Nutramigen will only last one month and cost her $500. Her foster child does get assistance from WIC, but many of the stores that accept WIC do not have the formula Segna needs.
“It’s heartbreaking. They don’t have a choice, and there’s nothing you can do. Like, she’s too little for food. You can’t give her baby food; you can’t give her cereal. It’s just heartbreaking,” Segna said with tears in her eyes.
She does have an order out for more formula and has family sending her some from Great Falls. She’s looking anywhere she can for help and has also posted on social media asking for people to keep an eye out.
"Some lady came to my door and gave me two cans,” said Segna. “I even went to the manufacturer's website to order it directly from them. They’re sold out too.”
A frightening feeling Segna said, just trying to help someone unable to help themselves.