ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) -- Western North Carolina is not immune to the baby formula shortage that is sweeping the nation.

Forest City mother Samantha Casteel is like many local mothers, constantly searching the Internet and scouring grocery stores to find what she needs for her baby.

"It just feels kind of like you're failing them in a way, like you can't find what they need, and it's stressful. It's very, very stressful," Casteel said.

Her daughter, Emory, was born about 10 weeks early, and she needs a special, high-calorie formula called Similac Neosure for Babies Born Prematurely.

"I got down to where I had half a can, and it was to the point that I was going every day to different stores, seeing if they had it," Casteel said.

Casteel said she's even paid for someone in Colorado to ship some formula all the way to the North Carolina mountains.

"We have friends all over the United States searching for it for us. If they see it, I tell them to buy it for me," Casteel said.

Right now, she has four cans -- about two weeks' worth -- of formula left.

"It's something that she has to have. I have to be able to provide that for her," Casteel said.

She said seeing the empty shelves is disheartening, but she tries to not let it get her down.

"I'll tear up, but I know I have to stay strong because if I break down, then both of my kids will break down, too," Casteel said.

County WIC programs, which are special supplemental nutrition programs for women, infants and children, are also feeling the impact of the shortage. As part of the many services and resources they provide, they help provide baby formula to low-income mothers in need.

Haywood County Health Director Sarah Henderson said their WIC program has noticed a shortage for a couple months now.

"Luckily, we have been able to accommodate those needs. If it's something in particular we couldn't find, they're working to make comparable changes with something we do know is on the shelf," Henderson said.

She said the biggest problem they're having is finding more specific formulas, like hypoallergenic formula for babies that have soy and milk protein allergies. Officials urge families to consult their doctors, though, before making any changes.

"Those are kind of hard to come by to begin with, and they seem to be in the biggest shortage," Henderson said.

Henderson said she realizes this can be a stressful situation for mothers, but urges them not to water down their formulas, ration them or make their own. She also urges that when you do find formula, only buy what you need.

"That's one thing we want to urge people to do is to put in your cabinets what you need and not to stockpile formula," Henderson said.

You can find more information on Haywood County WIC here.

Buncombe County WIC Director Sarah Bennett has some advice for mothers, in an effort to minimize stressful trips to the store.

"Some recommendations that we're giving when looking for products in the grocery store is to consider calling a store ahead of time to see if the specific product they're looking for is in stock," Bennett said.

Bennett said the county's WIC team is keeping an open line of communication with local vendors, health care providers and the state WIC office to stay apprised of the situation and supply fluctuations.

"We discourage anyone attempting to make homemade formula milk or some of those other potential recommendations that they might find floating out there," Bennett said.

You can find more information on Buncombe County WIC here.

Henderson County Community Health Director Stacy Taylor said they, too have been impacted by formula shortages. She offered the following suggestions:

Breastfeed as much as possible. Be flexible with formula brands. Try different stores. NEVER over-dilute formula. It can cause a dangerous and life-threatening problem. DO NOT use homemade recipes. They do not have the correct amount or types of nutrients needed for infants. If you find any of the formula Samantha Casteel's daughter needs, feel free to contact News 13 reporter Anjali Patel at avpatel@sbgtv.com and she can let Casteel know.

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