Worsening baby formula shortage sends mothers scrambling to feed their infants

Worsening baby formula shortage sends mothers scrambling to feed their infants
According to Datasembly, the hardest-hit areas of the nationwide formula shortage are in Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas (Twitter)

Parents across the US are struggling to find baby formula on store shelves amid a nationwide shortage as major retailers enforced rationing following a recall of popular formula products after an infant died of a bacterial infection.

According to an analysis by Datasembly, which tracked baby formula stock at over 11,000 retailers, at least 40 to 50 percent of the bestselling formula products were out of stock at stores across the country in the week ending April 24. The shortages reportedly began during the Covid-19 pandemic when companies faced major supply chain hurdles, including procuring raw materials, packaging delays, and labor shortages.


#BareShelvesBiden trends as Internet hilariously takes POTUS to task over empty stores

5-month-old found emaciated, 'close to death' after vegan parents fed him mashed potatoes instead of baby formula

The situation worsened in February when Abbott Labs was forced to recall their Alimentum, Similac, and EleCare baby formulas after five infants who consumed them contracted a Cronobacter sakazakii infection -- known to cause blood infections and meningitis -- and one of the kids died as a result. "An entire month [there] was nothing... nothing online, nothing in stores nearby," Nicole Brown, who has a 5-month-old, bemoaned to News 4 Jacksonville in Florida. "I can get Amazon delivered to my door, but I can't feed my son. It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Meanwhile, Virginia-based foster mom Jill Bradford, who takes care of a 5-month-old baby girl with medical needs, said she had less than two days worth of the special amino acid-based formula the child needs. "We've called the WIC office," Bradford told WTVR. "We've called Thrive, which is a supply company. We've called every hospital system in the state. I've contacted personally, every Kroger, Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS within the tri-cities area," she added. Bradford said she found eight cans of the special formula on eBay, where it's allegedly being sold for $800 as compared to the retail price which is between $43 and $47.



According to Datasembly, the hardest-hit areas include Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, where the out-of-stock rate in San Antonio was 56 percent. This comes as national retailers such as Walgreens and CVS have placed a limit of just three baby formula products per purchase. Meanwhile, Target is allowing customers to buy up to four units of a baby formula product at a time. The situation has caused national outrage as nearly 75% of babies in the US consume formula for their first six months.



That said, the circumstances are even worse for those parents whose children need specific formulae due to allergies or nutritional needs. Embattled mother Ashley Olsen, from Jacksonville, Florida, said her 9-month-old baby can only use a specific formula that she orders straight from the manufacturer to prevent allergic reactions. However, she has no idea when the product will be available again. "Luckily I stocked up last time. So today when I opened my last can, that kind of lit my fire a little bit," Olsen said. 

Texas mom Emily Pyeatt, 22, took to social media to reveal how she went to eight stores in search of formula for her 8-month-old baby. "This is the scariest thing I've ever experienced," she posted on March 30. "How are we supposed to feed our children when there's NO FORMULA ON THE SHELVES?"



Speaking to the Washington Post, Pyeatt said she was easing her son onto more solid foods as she was down to her last three cans and does not produce enough breast milk to feed him. "It was a very heartbreaking decision to stop, and I think it's upsetting for someone to say that," Pyeatt told the outlet. "I pray for the women who have babies who are not old enough for solid food," she added.

Abbot Labs announced in March that it hadn't found any Cronobacter sakazakii in any samples of the formula it sends out and that they are tested regularly. However, the company admitted that it found evidence of the bacteria in a "non-product contact area" at its Sturgis, Michigan plant. The baby formula manufacturers are now focused on ramping up production. "We know that this recall has further exacerbated an industry-wide instant formula supply shortage," Abbott Labs told the Post in a statement. "We are doing everything we can to address it," the company said, including accelerating the production of Similac, flying in products from Europe, and working with health care providers to identify alternative formulas.

Baby formula is offered for sale at a big box store on January 13, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois. Baby formula has been in short supply in many stores around the country for several months. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Meanwhile, Enfamil also released a statement to News 4 Jacksonville. "At Enfamil, we are dedicated to giving the millions of babies and toddlers that rely on our formulas the best start in life," it read. "We are aware that some parents are having trouble finding their favorite baby formula products in their preferred store. We have been optimizing our efforts to address any issues as fast as possible, and meet the needs of all babies who rely on our formula." And in a statement to News 4 Jacksonville, the Food and Drug Administration said it has met with a number of formula producers on a weekly basis "to try to increase capacity to produce specialty and metabolic products overall."

Share this article:  mothers infants baby formula shortage