I have never received formula from WIC, and I’m certainly not advising anyone to sell WIC formula. I’ve often run across forums where people are accusing WIC moms of selling formula for money, or warning people not to buy formula off Craigslist because they are WIC mothers who are selling their babies’ formula for money. It’s the kind of topic on forums that gets moms’ blood boiling. The kind of topic where all the Republicans use it as a reason that they shouldn’t have to pay to support programs like WIC. The kind of topic where people say how horrible it is that people would sell their babies’ FOOD, and leave their child undernourished.
It’s the kind of topic that makes me think though…what’s really going on? A LOT of formula is sold on Craiglist. A LOT! Take a look at any city’s Craigslist page and you’ll find a ton of formula listed at some LOW prices.
So what’s really going on here? Here are some possible scenarios.
A WIC Mom May be Lying
It could be that a mom is breastfeeding, but tells the WIC office that she is formula feeding so she can get the free formula and sell it for money. (The price of that formula is worth WAY more than any WIC breastfeeding package!)
I don’t think this is a very likely scenario. Breastfeeding moms in general are way too proud of breastfeeding their baby successfully to want to tell some nutritionist that they are formula feeding. Second, as a breastfeeding mom I can tell you there have been few (if any) WIC appointments short enough that I could make it through the entire appointment without breastfeeding my baby. I just don’t think breastfeeding moms are pretending to formula feed for the formula.
A WIC Mom May Have Been Given Too Much Formula
It’s possible that a mom got more formula on WIC than she needed and is selling the extra just to put some cash in her pocket.
I think that scenario is certainly possible. I googled “too much formula” + WIC and did come up with a few forum posts or blogs about people saying that their child turned 1 year old and they had left over formula from WIC. Personally, I would suggest the parent continue to give the child the formula instead of milk until it’s gone. A breast milk substitute like formula is going to be nutritionally superior to cow’s milk. So if your child will still drink the formula, I would give it to them. My baby is currently past 1 year old, but I still breastfeed her, so I see no reason not to continue to give formula to a formula fed child after 1 year if they’ll take it.
I don’t think this extra formula is likely what’s being sold in most of these Craigslist postings, though. It may happen sometimes, that a mom thinks their baby “graduated” to cow’s milk and that she can make a bunch of (illegal) money selling the leftover formula. But most moms seem to be saying that the amount of formula WIC gives them is pretty close to what they need, or even just under what they need. I didn’t come across too many posts about moms saying they had way more formula than they could use. Most posts, even when I was searching for “too much formula”, had moms saying how even when they were on WIC they had to buy a can on their own every now and then because WIC didn’t quite cover all their baby needed. I doubt many WIC moms have cases of formula they don’t intend on using.
A Couponing Mom May Have Bought Too Much Formula
Stockpiling from a coupon/sale sometimes causes a mom to have unwanted formula on hand. Because of WIC, stores have fairly strict policies about returning formula. So it’s probably easier for these moms to sell the formula online rather than try to return it.
I think this scenario may happen occasionally. There are some pretty high value formula coupons out there. I know if I were paying for formula out of pocket, I’d do my best to get my hand on those coupons and pair them with a sale. If you’ve ever watched shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing, you know what type of couponers I’m talking about. They ran across a great deal and stockpiled. In their excitement (or disorder), they overstocked their home.
A Mom May Be Switching Formulas
A mom may have stocked up on formula (whether she received it through WIC, used coupons, or bought it with her own hard-earned cash), then went to a well baby check up only to be told switching formulas could fix their baby’s colic.
I think this situation is very likely to happen. This is especially likely if you have a doctor tell one of those coupon clipping moms to switch formula. They could have JUST matched up coupons and sales to buy their baby the next 3 months of formula, and then the doctor lets them know if they switch the colic will go away.
A WIC Mom May Not Be Able to Get the Formula She Wants
It could be that a WIC mom finally found a formula that doesn’t give her baby a horrible tummy ache, but WIC doesn’t give that brand/type. So she takes the formula given to her through WIC, sells it, then buys the formula she can actually use. I’m not saying this is legal or right, just that it’s likely a reality for some moms.
A WIC Mom Decided to Switch Formulas
Imagine that a WIC mom got her month’s supply of formula, but then learned about a formula that her child would do better on. WIC won’t exchange the formula and won’t give her new vouchers for the other kind until NEXT month.
I think this scenario is likely, too. I know some parents find a formula that works for their child, but WIC doesn’t approve that formula (or can’t approve it until their next WIC appointment). I know it’s illegal, but I can see how a family would justify selling the formula that WIC gave them in order to buy the formula that’s better for their child.
There is no question about it: a LOT of formula is being resold. But I don’t think most of it is from WIC moms trying to make extra cash. I would even go so far as to say that if YOU need extra formula, and can get it cheaper by buying it on Craigslist, it wouldn’t hurt to ask some of the formula selling moms why they are selling it. If they have a legitimate reason, consider buying it from them at a discount.