Baby Formula Shortage USA 2022 – Baby Formula For Sale
What caused the crisis?
In February, Abbott Laboratories, maker of popular baby formulas, closed a manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan, after it recalled infant formula products when a federal investigation started after four babies taking the formula developed bacterial infections, two of whom died. Abbott has said there is no link between its formula and the illnesses.
Baby formula was already being affected by pandemic-related supply chain problems, but the Michigan plant closure “really exacerbated things”, said Dr Christopher Duggan, director of the Center for Nutrition at Boston children’s hospital.
Some Republicans have falsely suggested shortages are down to the Biden administration sending baby formula to undocumented immigrants. Steven L Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University told the New York Times that the amount purchased for migrants, “is statistically the equivalent of zero in terms of market share”.
Who has been most affected by the shortages?
Some states are facing more severe shortages, including Tennessee, Texas and Iowa where more than 50% of the top-selling products are out of stock, according to CBS.
The crisis is hitting poorer families disproportionately hard. Nearly half of baby formula in the US is bought under the Wic program, aimed at helping low-income women, infants and children. States give exclusive contract rights for this formula to one company under a bidding process. Abbott provides formula to about half of the babies receiving Wic benefits. When these products disappeared, families were left scrambling to find alternatives.
There are racial disparities, too. Rates of breastfeeding are lower for Black babies than white babies, according to a 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black women are more likely to live at or below the poverty level and more likely to return to work sooner, the report states.
“Those women are less likely to have flexibility in their jobs to be able to pump and express milk,” said Dr Ann Kellams, a University of Virginia faculty pediatrician and board president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. “They are the ones I worry most about right now. They are going to be the ones who are less likely to have a relative in a pocket of the US where they still have enough formula on the shelves to send it to them.”
When will the formula shortage be over?
On May 16, the FDA and Abbott reached an agreement to restart production at the company’s Michigan facility, which should help ease the shortage. However, it can take six to eight weeks after the start of production until the newly-produced formula appears in stores.
The FDA is working to accelerate production of imported formula, which needs to be overseen by the FDA and properly shipped and stored for safety before it’s allowed to be sold here. The agency will also be reviewing the formulas’ labeling and nutrition content before giving it the okay.
Companies will need to submit an application of sorts to the FDA to sell their imported formula in the U.S. and cannot begin doing so until the agency gives them the green light.
The first flights of imported formula from Europe as part of Operation Fly Formula arrived in the U.S. on May 22. This shipment contains specialized formula for children who have allergies.
In the meantime, the AAP has urged parents not to hoard formula, and to buy no more than 10-day to two-week supplies of formula “to help ease the impact of shortages.”
Some major retailers, including Walgreens, Target, CVS, Walmart, Kroger and Costco, are now capping how much formula customers can buy. Check on those quotas with your local store before purchase if you’re not sure.
If you can’t find your usual Baby formula in stock
- Try a similar version of a different brand. “If you can find a similar product in a different brand, this would be my starting point” when you can’t find your regular formula, says Emily Wisniewski, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician with Mercy Family Care Physicians in Baltimore, Maryland. “Your baby is getting something that is probably very [close] to what they were already on.”
- Try a similar version of the same brand. You may be able to find a slightly different formula made by the brand you’ve relied on that will still work just as well for your baby. “Often, formula companies have different versions of the same formula, such as a version for reflux or one that approximates breast milk,” says Katie Lockwood, M.D., a primary care pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The main components of these formulas are similar, so making this switch isn’t a big deal for an infant.”
- Try the generic version of the brand-name kind you normally use. “Generic versions, oftentimes, are very similar” to the big brand products, says Daniel Ganjian, M.D., a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Wisniewski agrees, explaining that generic formulas are typically only marginally different in ways “that most babies don’t even notice.” Labels on generic products will often state which brands they’re closest to in order to help guide you. If your baby is accustomed to a hypoallergenic formula, though, you’ll just want to swap it for another hypoallergenic one — especially if your child has reactions to regular formula, Dr. Ganjian says.
- Switch to the liquid or ready-made version of your usual formula. Many powdered formulas also have a liquid or ready-made version — they’re just a bit pricier than the DIY kind, says Dr. Lockwood. Since they cost more, they tend not to be as popular, so it’s less likely they’ll be out of stock. If you are able to buy a ready-made variety, there’s an added bonus: You’ll save yourself some time and effort since the formula is pre-mixed.
- Stick with the same brand, but just make sure it’s not recalled. If your baby’s formula is manufactured by Abbott Nutrition but isn’t included in the recall, it’s fine to use. “We don’t want you to waste or throw away products that are good, especially given how expensive formula is and how hard it is to find,” Dr. Wisniewski says. Still, she stresses that it is “super important” to check every can to see if it’s part of the recall. If it is, then you can toss it and get a refund.
- Check WIC benefits. If you are in the WIC program, check this map to see if your state is allowing families to buy different brands or sizes of formula with WIC benefits.
- Call around. Just because one store in your area is out of your go-to formula doesn’t mean that they all are. “You can oftentimes try and call other stores if you have to,” Dr. Ganjian says. You might also check local social media groups to see if anyone in your area has ideas about where formula might be in stock.