Social media has been ablaze with pictures of empty store shelves; however, this time, it’s not toilet paper or meat that’s low in supply. In the last few weeks, supply chain issues have brought about an alarming shortage in baby formula. For moms who can’t breast feed, fighting back panic while attempting to find the right baby formula can be a daunting task.
During the earliest months of 2021, the shortage of baby formula ranked at about eight percent; currently, the shortage is about forty percent. The shortage is worse in Texas, Tennessee, both North and South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa. In these states, the shortage is more like fifty percent. The shortage has prompted drug stores and other big box stores to limit the quantities in which formula may be purchased. Both Walgreens and CVS are limiting their customers to three containers of formula per transaction.
Target has set a limit of four packages of formula for online purchases. However, in Target stores, there is no limit when purchasing in person.
Many moms are ordering online from warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam’s in an attempt to get enough formula to last with the hopes that their local stores will catch up in supply. It is unknown if Walmart has a limit on its available products, but local stores may impose a limit.
The shortage is due to a number of factors, including the surge in inflation as well as supply chain issues. However, product recalls are also responsible for the shortage. At the end of March, powdered forms of Similac, Elecare, and Similac Alimentum were under a recall (to be clear, only certain lots of these brands of formula was under recall). These formulas were recalled after four babies became sick after ingesting the formula; the cause was attributed to a possible contamination of Cronobacter sakazakii.
Each of the formulas that were recalled were made in a factory in Sturgis, Michigan. The Food and Drug Administration has shut down the Abbott Nutrition site in Michigan, which is a major producer of baby formula for the United States.
There has been no recall of Enfamil products.
For parents, finding “regular” formula has become quite the task. Many are enlisting relatives in other states to assist in finding formula and then shipping to the family. Others are ordering online, but most scary for new parents is being short on their current supply and then being unable to find formula locally. With no guarantees on shipping times, many parents are trying to find new ways to feed their babies until the formula arrives.
For parents of babies who must have a more specialized formula, such as those for babies with allergies or digestive issues, finding their babies’ specific formula is becoming almost impossible.
Some parents are finding unvetted recipes for baby formula online, and many desperate parents are trying this. However, pediatricians say this could make babies ill also.
Healthychildren.org recommends parents who urgently need formula (i.e., you are just a few scoops away from running out) should first talk with their pediatricians, who may be able to help you get a can from a local formula representative or from a local charity. Some parents may be able to contact a local WIC office as well. It’s also a good idea to check out smaller grocery stores who may not run out before the bigger stores do. Family-owned drug stores may also have a decent supply of baby formula.
Once you are able to purchase enough to keep your baby stocked for a few days, then consider purchasing online. Most online sites are more likely to have a steady supply compared to in-person stores. However, purchase from reputable sites – not online auctions or individual sellers unless you know the seller.
Never purchase formula that isn’t made in the United States; it is not required to undergo FDA regulations and might not be safe.
Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about swapping to another type of formula. Don’t be tempted to water down the powdered formula that you have; this can cause nutritional deficits and could harm your baby.