The Search for Baby Formula is Becoming Parent's Worst Nightmare

Formula Shortage is Affecting Parents Coast to Coast

Photo by Lucy Wolski on Unsplash

Parents across the country are scrambling to find baby formula. Low-income and rural parents are being affected the most. This adds more mental health issues to an already stressful time for many parents.

One parent told a local news station, “It’s definitely anxiety-inducing. I’ve been looking everywhere for formula. I am on a lot of Facebook groups, checking Amazon, and talking to neighbors.”

The worsening nationwide baby formula shortage is affecting parents coast to coast, including those who choose not to or cannot breastfeed and those whose medically fragile children can’t tolerate other nutrition sources. Beyond scouring the internet, parents tirelessly search store shelves near and far daily, coordinate formula exchanges through Facebook pages and spend countless hours — and sometimes huge sums of money — to make sure their children have food.

Parents search online, drive hours, or have friends and family ship formula to them. One parent told the Washington Post that Ebay had one case of formula and it was $800!!

Nationwide, 40 percent of formula is out of stock — a dramatic increase since 2021. As parents have started to stockpile formula, retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, and Target are limiting the number of formula cans US customers can buy per transaction. Target has limited online purchases of the products, also.

FDA warns against homemade formula or diluting formula

The FDA is advising parents and caregivers not to make or feed homemade infant formula to infants. Parents or caregivers of infants who have consumed a homemade infant formula should contact their healthcare provider and report any symptoms to their local Health Department.

The FDA has recently received adverse event reports of hospitalized infants suffering from hypocalcemia (low calcium) that had been fed homemade infant formula.

The FDA does not recommend that parents and caregivers make infant formulas at home because of serious health and safety concerns. 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. Because of these severe health concerns, the FDA strongly advises parents and caregivers not to make and feed their infants homemade infant formulas.

Low-Income families are most affected.

Formula was already a pricey item for struggling parents before the crisis. A family can spend about $1500 or more on formula, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated before the recent jump in inflation.

“The families we serve (low income) don’t have the luxury to hoard formula. They don’t have access to big-box stores. They can’t afford to buy in bulk, and they don’t have access to Internet deals,” said Norah Weinstein, co-CEO of Baby2Baby, a nonprofit providing items to families living in poverty. “All of these things expose the fragility of the formula supply chain, which is so damaging for families in poverty.”

What Can Parents Do?, a division of the American Academy of Pediatrics, offers these suggestions: Keep in mind, that this advice is strictly for URGENT situations. If you have any concerns about your baby’s nutrition, please talk with your pediatrician.

  • Talk with your pediatrician and ask if they are able to get you a can from the local formula representatives or one of the charities that has some. Your local WIC office may also be able to suggest places to look.

  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are.

  • If you can afford it, buy formula online until store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites. Do not import formula from overseas since the imported formula is not FDA-reviewed.

  • Ask your pediatrician about recommended specialty formula alternatives available for your baby.

  • Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula.

  • Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.

Don’t hesitate to talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s health and nutrition. If your child has special health needs, check with their doctor about medically appropriate and safe feeding alternatives.


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