The baby formula shortage has hit NJ parents hard, and many of them are driving long distances to try and get their babies fed. Some residents are using social media to share tips on where to find formula in stock. Stores such as Walmart, Target and CVS nationwide have been out-of-stock on most types of formula causing a crisis in our country.

The FDA, the White House and Congress have all stepped up to try and address the problem. In the meantime, parents have created online formula exchanges and are proving each other with real-time updates on stores’ formula availability. According to Datasembly, New Jersey was rated the seventh worst in the country last month due to its out-of-stock rates at NJ stores. This month, NJ ranks 20th.

While some stores have empty shelves where formula used to be in abundance, others are keeping their small supply locked in glass cases — customers must ask for assistance to access it. Parent Jessica Palaia of Pompton Lakes created the Bergen County Formula Exchange page on Facebook. It’s open to anyone, including non-Bergen County residents. As of writing, there were nearly 1,000 members of the group.

The crisis is due in part to supply chain issues, as well as formula recalls that have involved formula that sickened infants and caused the death of two babies and closed down a large plant.

On Tuesday, Gov.  Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency with regard to infant formula, which will stop price-gouging on the in-demand product. The state Division of Consumer Affairs will investigate any complaints of excessive price increases and monitor retailers. The state also eased the rules for moms who buy formula through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

In the meantime, parents are being told not to try and stretch out formula by watering it down. Parents are cautioned to only use formula in the way the manufacturer recommends. The AAP recommends against trying recipes online to make your own formula which are unsafe and do not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

“Even the best intentions can have devastating results,” Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Department of Emergency Medicine said in a press release. “Although it may seem safe to use substitutes or make homemade formula to feed your baby, it can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening.”

And while some people have suggested that women “just breastfed” that solution is not a simple or realistic one for many women who aren’t able to feed their babies this way.

In an article for healthychildren.org, Steven A. Abrams, MD, FAAP, said that parents should check smaller pharmacies to see if they have any formula in stock, and to buy online if they are able to. Be sure to only purchase from well-known distributors. For most babies, it is ok to switch formula brands, but check with your pediatrician. Lastly, check social media groups for tips on where to find formula.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises buying no more than a 10-day to 2-week supply of formula in order to ease the impact of shortages.