LOS ANGELES -- For Diana Granados, 29, the quest began with a callout on a popular Instagram page for new parents.
"Do you have any formula to spare?"
Granados didn't. But as she thought of the ongoing national formula shortage, and of babies like her 6-month-old son, Raul, going hungry, she wanted to offer what she could.
"Hello, I have breast milk to donate," the Baldwin Park mom wrote in the comments. Within minutes, requests were flooding in.
"They wanted to give me explanations of why they needed the milk," Granados said. "I was like, 'I don't even need to know that! I just want to give it to you.'"
Granados is one of thousands of lactating parents from across California who have poured in to help with the ongoing emergency. As their neighbors scramble to find formula, some nursing parents are looking to their own bodies as a source of help.
"The number of donors we're seeing has significantly increased this past week," said Jonathan Bautista, executive director of the nonprofit Mothers' Milk Bank of San Jose, the oldest human-milk bank in the country.
The state's other nonprofit bank, the University of California Health Milk Bank in San Diego, has seen a similar surge.
"We've had a fivefold increase in inquiries for donating in just the last six days," Dr. Lisa Stellwagen, the bank's executive director and a professor of pediatrics at UCSD, said Tuesday. "It's been this huge outpouring."
For millions of families, the formula shortage was already acute back in April. But the crisis exploded into the public consciousness last week, when baby-food aisles in local supermarkets and national chains such as Walmart and Target were stripped almost bare. In a Mid-City Target store on Wednesday, rainbow rows of fruit puree and veggie mush sat facing empty shelves, with little more than gallon jugs of sterile water and flats of Pedialyte where formula would normally be.