By Julia Cameron • 16 May 2023 • 7:56
Tin of open infant formula.
Credit: National Institute of Korean Language/ Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Korea license.
They are first-time parents. Their baby wouldn’t latch on so breastfeeding isn’t an option.
But this couple has resorted to stealing baby formula because they just can’t afford to buy it. The mother is a retail assistant and is on maternity leave, but she hasn’t been able to access Heath Start vouchers from the government which would give her some support.
The cost of baby formula says the couple is out of their reach and if they don’t have the money to pay for it then the new dad will steal it. The cost of baby formula has risen above inflation and is now around 45 per cent more expensive than it was before the cost-of-living crisis, two years ago.
He says he usually uses self-checkout tills and buys a certain amount of groceries and then doesn’t include those he can’t pay for. It’s a risk he says he is prepared to take to feed his baby.
He isn’t the only one struggling. Other parents have reported watering down the formula or even adding condensed milk or cow’s milk, both unhealthy options for a baby’s development.
In Hartlepool where they have a Baby Bank, the team say that the number of families coming to them for help is rising. The Baby Bank founder, Emilie De Bruijn said baby formula was like “gold dust.”
The crisis has also meant that a black market has been created for those who can buy baby food but need it at a cheaper price. One father says he buys branded baby formula from a woman who steals it. He said she sold it at a third of the price.
Baby formula manufacturers said they are trying to offer the best value they can, but that it is the retailers who set the prices.
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Julia is an ex-pat writer from Brighton living in a small village close to the Andalucian town of Priego de Cordoba. When she's not working she enjoys reading, tracing her ancestry and swimming. She especially loves the summer when she can get down to the coast and chill on the beach.
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