National Baby Formula Shortage Worsens

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on May 10, 2022

Many parents are seeing empty shelves where they used to see infant and toddler formula. The national out-of-stock rate for baby formula hit 31% in April. The shortage isn’t new, but it’s worsened. CVS and Walgreens said they’re limiting customers to three formulas per transaction.

The out-of-stock rate was “relatively stable” for the first half of 2021, between 2% and 8%, data collection company Datasembly says. In January 2022, the out-of-stock rate hit 23%. Connecticut, Delaware, Montana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington saw out-of-stock rates higher than 40% in the first week of April.

Datasembly cited inflation, supply chain shortages and product recalls as causes of the empty shelves.

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Abbot, the parent company of multiple pediatric nutrition brands, says they voluntarily recalled lots of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powder formulas “after four consumer complaints related to Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella Newport in infants who had consumed powder infant formula.” The FDA says it knows of two babies who have died of salmonella in relation to this case.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a reporter the FDA is working with major infant formula manufacturers to “ensure they’re increasing production.”

The president and founder of pro-life organization Live Action, Lila Rose, posted on Twitter that the midterms will show voters “care about affording to put gas in their cars and finding baby formula — not forcing other states to permit killing preborn children.”

To What Degree Can Breastfeeding Provide a Solution?

Parenting publication Romper tackled the question of whether breastfeeding is a solution to the formula shortage. For mothers who aren’t breastfeeding, establishing a milk supply is time intensive. “Relactation is a long process, you need professional guidance, and sometimes medication, and it’s a huge undertaking,” Kate DiMarco Ruck, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), said. “You need to pump every two hours. That’s just not realistic for someone who is back to work and looking to supplement their baby. And it’s very insensitive — it would be a horrible thing to say to someone who struggled with breastfeeding in the first place.”

As people were panic buying at the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, The Washington Post ran an article offering advice on relactation entitled, “Worries over formula shortages have stirred interest in re-lactation. Here’s what to know.” The article quoted lactation consultants saying they were getting an increased number of requests about relactation and offered tips on how to reestablish a milk supply or even attempt to establish a milk supply without having breastfed before.

More Vulnerable

Many babies can drink a different formula than the one they’re used to without much problem. Some, however, require specialty formulas due to allergies or other gastrointestinal issues and are more vulnerable to health issues when parents aren’t able to obtain the formula they normally consume. “I knew we would have to use the generic formula that hurt her stomach again,” one mom said of her baby in an interview with Fox News. “And that broke my heart.”


Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on Twitter @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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