Why is there a baby formula shortage; what can parents do?

Shelves that should be holding containers of baby formula have become even more bare over the past few weeks.

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While manufacturers have been saying they’re at full production capacity, there is still not enough formula to meet demand.

CNN reported that around this time last year, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula was between 2% and 8%. But from November 2021 to the beginning of April 2022, it jumped to 31%.

At the end of April, it skyrocketed to 40%.

In Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee, more than half of all baby formula was sold out for the week of April 24, CNN reported.

>>Previous coverage: Baby formula shortage worsens, nearly 30% of popular brands sold out

Now the number of states struggling to have enough baby formula has more than doubled — 26 states have shortages.

The data was compiled by Datasembly, a company that tracks supply and prices.

Industry watchers are attributing the shortage to supply chain issues, recalls and inflation, and the lack of baby formula isn’t expected to end soon.

A recent recall by Abbott Nutrition is one of the issues impacting baby formula availablity.

Four babies were sent to hospitals after coming down with bacterial infections traced back to the products. Two died, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

>>Previous coverage: FDA warns against using 3 powdered baby formulas linked to infections

The FDA is warning parents not to use recalled Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formula that was made in Sturgis, Michigan.

“We know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage,” Abbott said in a statement, according to The New York Times. “We are working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.”

To help lessen the supply shortage impact, stores are issuing limits on how much customers can purchase at any one time, the Times reported.

CVS said that its customers can only buy three baby formula items per purchase both in stores and online, NBC News reported.

Walgreens also is limiting purchases to three items.

“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country,” Walgreens told NBC News in a statement. “Similar to other retailers, we put into effect purchase limits of three per transaction on all infant and toddler formula to help improve inventory. We continue to work diligently with our supplier partners to best meet customer demands.”

>>Previous coverage: Recall alert: More Similac baby formula added to recall list

Costco has purchase limits set on its website depending on brand and variation, and said that it may not be available at local stores.

Target has an online limit of four items, but no limit for brick-and-mortar locations.

The shortages are causing anxiety for parents who are trying to figure out ways to get the formula for their children, especially when their child can only consume one brand or one variety.

>>Previous coverage: Baby formula shortage: What parents need to know

Wynter Balthrop’s 8-month-old daughter Blakely can only eat Enfamil’s Nutramigen formula, a hypoallergenic variety.

Balthrop said her daughter got sick eating a generic brand recently. She said she and her husband tried six stores in person and searched or called locations as far as three hours away from their Gallatin, Tennessee, home, and there was none of the specialty formula available.

“I broke down in the car,” Balthrop told Fox News Digital. “[I was] panicking and sad for my girl because we had enough formula left to make one bottle — and I knew we would have to use the generic formula that hurt her stomach again. And that broke my heart.”

She was eventually able to find three bottles of the brand a few towns away and was able to get them. She said she’s stockpiling any of the Enfamil’s Nutramigen formula when she sees it to get Blakely through her first birthday.

Some families are taking a chance and making homemade formulas or asking for recipes to do so, but pediatricians say don’t do that. Dr. Sarah Adams of Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio told Fox News that the American Academy of Pediatrics said that it is not safe and not FDA approved.

Instead, Adams and the AAP gave other recommendations to parents when they can’t find the formula they typically buy, Fox News reported.

1. Don’t hoard. Don’t buy more than a 10-day to 2-week supply.

2. Call the pediatrician and see if they can get the formula from company representatives.

3. Reach out to charities that may have a supply.

4. Check the local Women Infants and Children office to see if they have supplies for lower-income families.

5. Visit smaller stores and drugstores that may not have the foot traffic of bigger retailers.

6. Buy online but make sure it’s from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies. Don’t buy from auctions or overseas.

7. Switch to another brand or type that’s available, but check with your pediatrician first.

8. Check the formula that you already have to make sure it wasn’t recalled. Don’t throw away formula that wasn’t part of the alert, especially if it hasn’t expired.

9. Don’t use milk alternatives for infants under a year old. Almond or other plant-based milks do not have the proteins needed.

10. Don’t use toddler formula to feed infants.

11. Don’t water down formula.




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