Pregnant Lady Diaries #2: Formula and diapers

In our ongoing series on the extreme sport that is being pregnant in Venezuela, Anabella discovers that Maracaibo is flooded with Turkish diapers and Instagram is an expectant mom's best friend.

The first item in the Pregnant Lady hoarding list is obvious: formula. Now, now…spare me the lectures. I’m all for breastfeeding. But I know it’s not possible for every woman. And, who knows? my baby may need a side-bottle of formula as dessert, just like my mom said I needed when I was tiny. Or I might get sick and the doctor might recommend that I stop breastfeeding. Or…   

Luckily, the day I learned I was pregnant, baby formula started showing up in pharmacies again after a long absence. Only one brand and one presentation per baby’s age, granted, but it was better than nothing. According to my friends-with-babies, the demand for formula dropped somewhat when buyers noticed a new price close to five times higher than the last controlled price. It’s still way cheaper than formulas in the US, but since Venezuelans make a living in bolivars, that’s not much comfort. Baby formula is just out of reach for many.

You can also get help from cashiers—they will let you use their ID number without charging you extra.

So you buy some, but even then there’s plenty to worry about. “You won’t know,” people told me “if the baby will be able to digest the formula or might be lactose intolerant or allergic or… etc.”

Buying a $20 can of formula from the US —close to Bs.80,000 or almost three monthly minimum wages— that might last 5 to 7 days is not a real option and I wasn’t sure If I would find any other formula in Venezuela in the coming months.

Heads up: there was a two-can-per-person restriction when we bought the formula. Luckily, we brought my parents along and were able to buy some extra. You can also get help form cashiers: some are super friendly and might be willing to help you out and allocate you their personal quota —they will let you use their ID number without charging you extra.

The whole diapers thing es otro beta.

We had barely given the good news to our friends and families when everyone started saying: “go out and find diapers now.” Here, my maracucho hubby, Carlos, turned into my secret weapon: he’s been able to find tons of them, mostly from abroad and even some Turkish ones that are showing up in Maracaibo. ¡Gracias, chinita!

At this point you might be wondering, if getting disposable diapers is so complicated, why not go for cloth? It’s a feasible substitute, though I don’t know of anybody that chooses them over the never-ending disposable diaper scavenger hunt. The constant water cuts and detergent shortages we deal with really lower the appeal of cloth diapers: who wants to face a houseful of soiled diapers you can’t wash? Even when we do get water, it’s so dirty and brown you feel clothes come out of the machine dirtier than they went in. Olvídense, cloth diapers are a luxury only first world hippies can afford.

We had barely given the good news to our friends and families when everyone started saying: “go out and find diapers NOW.

So just do the normal thing and scan Instagram for baby stuff: there are accounts that sell baby stuff from the US in bolívares. Some I started following are BebesConsentidos, 4baby.eshop and latienditadelresuelve, but there are many more. In some cases, once you consider taxes and door-to-door expenses, it may be a more economically efficient alternative to buying stuff from abroad. If you buy via IG, make sure they send the package via MRW, it seems to be more reliable and I’ve heard close to zero complaints about the service.

Pro Tips:

  • With both formula and diapers, remember you have to plan for each stage of the baby’s growth.
  • If you have bolívares, start cruising the streets to stock up on formula and diapers. Make it a group activity in case there’s a restriction in the amount of formula or diapers you can buy.
  • Beggars can’t be choosers: buy the brand you find.
  • Don’t forget to check on the expiration date on formula: no use stocking up on stuff that will have gone bad by the time your baby needs it.
  • Turn your Facebook and IG accounts as your personal shopping and barter engines.
  • If you want more time to do more research, use your bolívares to buy baby wipes or other baby products at the old-price (trust me, they’re out there).

Anabella Abadi M.

Economist. Married to a Maracucho. Loves horror films and writing when she can't sleep.