For many parents who rely on formula to feed their infants, the thought of simply changing the brand of formula our child is eating is stressful. For babies who have specific nutritional needs or are just plain fussy, it’s hard to know if they’ll tolerate the change. Formula is a necessary item for thousands of families across the United States, but nowadays, many parents are struggling to make the choice to switch brands of formula and worry that formula of their choice has run out amid an ongoing shortage of formula that has plagued the country for months.
This situation comes with an added stressor of having to run the script in our mind about what we would need to do if there were no formula. And this hypothetical situation is becoming real for families right now. Here’s what you need to know.
Is there a shortage of infant formula?
In recent months, infant formula shortages have begun to crop up nationwide. Reports of parents struggling to find the brand of formula their baby will eat began to grow stronger in late January. These shortages were linked to “a combination of supply chain issues”, which included a shortage of ingredients and a lack of staff to work to get the formula on the shelves.
“The stock-out percentage for infant formula hovered between 2% and 8% in the first seven months of last year,” NPR reports. “But it has grown steadily since then and reached 23% in January,” according to Datasembly, NPR writing.
So the shortage of infant formula is very real and it is not getting better.
However, fears and concerns intensified a month later after a major infant formula recall due to fears of Cronobacter sakazakii infections and contamination, and the necessary recall further limited infant formula stock. Abbott Nutrition has recalled certain lots of Similac, EleCare and Alimentum powdered formula, in addition to one lot of Similac PM 60/40 medical formula.
These recalls forced stores to pull them from shelves, and the factory had to halt manufacturing to ensure the products were safe to use. This necessary step has unfortunately made it even harder for parents to get the formula they love. According to Data assembly, during the week of March 13, 29% of infant formula was out of stock at retailers across the country. The data analyzed more than 11,000 places that sell formula, and the increase has grown.
The shortage of infant formula is getting worse.
With shortages underway, retailers across the United States are now rationing the sale of infant formula. The Wall Street Journal reports that several retail chains – including Target, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger – have imposed purchase limits on infant formula to ensure that more families can buy the product they need to feed their babies and avoid product storage.
“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formula is experiencing constraints across the country,” a Walgreens spokesperson said. NPR.
What can parents do in the face of formula shortage?
It’s understandably scary for parents worried about not finding the brand of formula their little one is eating. Experts say that after consulting with their child’s pediatrician, most often the brand of formula can be safely replaced with another name or generic brand and may be the best option during shortages – as long as the type formula remains the same.
However, parents should never dilute their baby’s formula with water to make it last longer, and parents should not turn to homemade formula recipes. “The big thing we want people to do is make sure they’re not trying to skimp or do things on their own by diluting the formula to try and make it last longer. Do not add water,” said Dr. John Kunzer who spoke with WTHR News.
It is also important not to give milk to your baby until he is at least one year old.
Experts also warn against buying preparations from an online marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook. “When you buy formula from a third-party seller, you can’t be sure the product is what you think you’re buying, and you can’t be sure about the storage conditions either,” said Bridget Young, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry said The New York Times. Buy formula directly from the manufacturer or from a trusted pharmacy or store.