Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and it created a baby formula shortage in the United States. Supply chain issues, labor issues, and recalled baby food formulas have all contributed to this national crisis. The Atlantic reports that 40 percent of formula is out of stock, and stores like Walmart and Target are limiting purchases of baby formula to discourage hoarding.
What About Breastfeeding
Babies are hungry and no the answer isn’t, “Just breastfeed” because producing milk to breastfeed is not a light switch that women can just turn on and off. And even if they could, there are no guarantees they could produce enough milk to sustain the baby or that the baby would latch.
“40 percent of formula is out of stock in the U.S.
To exacerbate this dire situation, Forbes reported that people are actually using bots to find supplies of baby formula to hoard and sell online, which might explain the reason why more infant formula was purchased in the month of April than in March prior to the recall. Others are using bots to help moms locate baby formula for their infants.
Trouble For Low-Income Families
This crisis truly affects low-income families, especially those who depend on WIC or may not have transportation to search for miles to purchase baby formula.
The White House announced that the “USDA is urging states to allow WIC recipients to use their WIC benefits on a wider variety of products so that if certain sizes or types of formula are out of stock, they can use their benefits on those that are in stock.” Contact your governor and tell him or her to make WIC benefits available for any formula.
What Are They Doing About It
Infant formula manufacturers are meeting or exceeding capacity levels to meet current demand. President Biden is leading the effort by taking steps to cut any red tape to get more infant formula to store shelves quicker. He has been on the phone with manufacturers and retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Reckitt, and Gerber.
In addition, he is calling on the FTC and state attorneys general to crack down on price gouging or unfair market practices of infant formula. The FDA is allowing supplies of formula through increased imports.
“Those who depend on WIC may not be able to search for baby formula outside of their neighborhoods due to lack of transportation”
Know that the FDA advises against making baby formula at home. “The potential problems with homemade formulas include contamination and absence of, or inadequate amounts of critical nutrients. These problems are very serious, and the consequences range from severe nutritional imbalances to foodborne illnesses, both of which can be life-threatening (FDA).” Whatever you do, do not water down formula for your baby. Diluting baby formula can cause serious health problems, including dehydration, kidney problems, weight loss, and seizures.
It Won’t Be Over Anytime Soon
How long will this shortage continue? Dr. Steven Abrams, spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics said that this shortage could go on for months. Even when the factories come online, it will take a while for supplies to return to where they were before the shortage.
What Can We Do Right Now?
If you are having trouble finding baby formula to purchase for your baby, the first step is to speak with your physician and your OB/GYN. Often these companies will send them formula as samples or they may have other resources available.
“Whatever you do, do not water down formula for your baby. It can cause serious health problems”
Infants with special medical needs can get baby formula directly from the manufacturer, Abbot, on a case-by-case basis, but you have to work with your pediatrician to get it. This is the formula that has been on hold at Abbotts’ Sturgis facility. According to the FDA, “In these circumstances, the benefit of allowing caregivers, in consultation with their healthcare providers, to access these products may outweigh the potential risk of bacterial infection.” Call Abbott’s urgent product request line and ask your OBGYN or your infant’s pediatrician to submit an urgent product request by downloading and completing this form.
Facebook Groups That Offer Breastmilk Or Formula
If you are paying for formula from a stranger, pay with a credit card. If it is a scam, you can dispute it with your credit card company.
U.S. Health & Human Service Department Resources
- Gerber’s MyGerber Baby Expert: reach a certified nutrition or lactation consultant by phone, text, Facebook Messenger, web chat, or video call, who can help you identify a similar formula that may be more readily available.
- Abbott’s Consumer Hotline: call 1-800-986-8540
- Reckitt’s Customer Service line: call 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)
- United Way’s 2-1-1: dial 2–1-1 to be connected to a community resource specialist affiliated with United Way who may be able to help you identify food pantries and other charitable sources of local infant formula and baby food.
- Feeding America: call your local food bank to ask whether they have infant formula and other supplies in stock.
- Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA): certain HMBANA — accredited milk banks are distributing donated breast milk to mothers in need; please note that some may require a prescription from a medical professional. Find an HMBANA — accredited milk bank.
- Check Facebook for milk donation groups, like Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Find My Formula, both have several group pages for different states.
- Contact your local WIC office to identify or obtain additional sources of infant formula nearby.