Allie Smulka checks online for formula every day to make sure she has enough for her 10-month-old daughter, Whitney.

So when she hears the nationwide infant formula shortage should finally let up by the end of June, it doesn't feel like a light at the end of the tunnel.

"When I hear four to six weeks, that's not a bright and shiny thing," said Smulka, who did not plan to use formula, but whose daughter now goes through a can per week. "This is a health crisis."

Empty shelves have many frustrated Minnesota parents going store to store, looking for formula, the only source of nutrition available for some infants.

"It just wasn't in the cards to breastfeed," Kirsten Collins, mother of a 5-week-old girl, told Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday at the State Capitol. "We have enough to get through the end of the month, and we are using our village [of friends and family] to help track down more."

Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan gathered Minnesotans affected by the formula shortage and vowed to work with retailers and suppliers to make sure residents have enough.

"We need to be talking about this," Flanagan said. "We are feeding our babies, and there is literally nothing that is more important than that."

A February recall of Similac, one of the nation's largest formula brands, exacerbated an already tight supply chain, resulting in the nationwide shortage.

Manufacturers have tried to pick up the slack, but out-of-stock signs remain pervasive.

The Biden administration on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act, which will require ingredient suppliers to prioritize formula manufacturers above other customers.

Federal regulators have said they are streamlining imports and moving quickly to review expansion plans at formula plants.

A settlement reached with Abbott Laboratories this week means one of the nation's largest formula factories will soon be back online, possibly as early as next week, though it could be a month or more before product from the Sturgis, Mich., facility reaches shelves.

The plant was closed to investigate the origin of a bacterial infection that killed two infants and sickened two others.

"We know millions of parents and caregivers depend on us and we're deeply sorry that our voluntary recall worsened the nationwide formula shortage," Chicago-based Abbott CEO Robert Ford said in a statement Monday. "We will work hard to re-earn the trust that moms, dads and caregivers have placed in our formulas for more than 50 years."

As a result of these latest steps by the government, Jack Stortenbecker, Hy-Vee store director for Lakeville and Eagan, said suppliers are confident formula volumes should be back to normal in four to six weeks.

"We are getting very sporadic supplies, that's the biggest challenge we're seeing right now," Stortenbecker said. "We learned from COVID [product shortages] and we're spreading it out so every store gets the most coverage possible."

Though the Food and Drug Administration encourages retailers to limit how much formula can be purchased at once — which Target and others have done — Stortenbecker said he hasn't had to.

Limited options

The World Health Organization recommends breast milk to feed infants at least through the first six months of life when possible, but there are a number of reasons mothers and caregivers need to use formula instead of breast milk.

"The way that you feed your baby is just fine," Flanagan said.

Dr. Andrea Singh, chair of pediatrics at Park Nicollet, agreed: "Fed is best."

The Minnesota Milk Bank For Babies offers donor breast milk for those in need, but supplies are limited and more donors are always needed.

"Pasteurized donor human milk [PDHM] is distributed to hospitals in NICUs and other inpatient settings for premature and other medically fragile infants," said Linda Dech, the milk bank's executive director. "For healthy babies, PDHM is a limited resource that isn't a viable alternative to formula. However, for infants with medical issues we will try and meet their needs as best we can."

Minnesota-based Basketful, a tech company that sells product locator maps to brands and makes a shopping list app for consumers, has developed a formula finder that scours major retailers for availability.

"We're sitting on top of technology that's able to see where these products are, so people on our team said: Why couldn't we create something quick that would help people in some way in a crisis?" said co-founder Jim Lesch. "We realize it's not going to be perfect but it might help someone find formula."

Charities, including Fuel for Change and Feeding Every Baby, are asking for unexpired formula donations to distribute; food banks have seen shortages just like retailers.