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The Baby Formula Shortage Has Parents Scrambling

Shelves are bare, prices are up, and some brands are hard to find anywhere. But why?

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For months, parents shopping for baby formula are only finding empty shelves. The formula shortage has continued to worsen, leaving many concerned about their infants’ wellbeing and what to do. Here’s what you need to know.

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What’s Causing The Shortage?

In short, supply chain and labor issues as well as high-profile recalls are all factors. But whether blame lies primarily with manufacturers or retailers is, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, hotly debated.

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How Bad Is It?

According to Datasembly, the early-April out-of-stock rate (OOS) was 31% nationally, with certain areas seeing shortages up to 56%, and it’s only gotten worse in recent weeks.

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Is It Just Me, Or Has Formula Gotten More Expensive?

You’re not imagining it. According to CBS News, the price of formula is up 18% over the last 12 months.

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Who’s Being Affected?

While anyone who regularly buys baby formula has noticed less product on shelves, certain geographic areas have been hit harder than others, according to Datasembly.

In 26 states, the OSS is between 40% and 50%, but six states – Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas, and Tennessee – are even harder hit. Additionally, more than a dozen major metropolitan areas, from Oahu to Hartford, have an OSS higher than 40%.

While most babies can switch between formula brands without issue, those with allergies cannot and are facing greater difficulty finding food, particularly in light of national recalls of certain specialty brands.

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How Have Retailers Responded?

Walgreens, Target, and CVS have implemented limits on how much formula you can purchase, between three and four cans at a time, citing supplier issues and increased demand.

Despite these strict limits, shoppers are still reporting empty shelves in multiple stores.

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Is Anyone Helping?

While White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that the FDA was “working around the clock to address any possible shortage” on May 9, she did not provide any details about possible government intervention.

While some congressional Republicans have addressed the shortage, as of press time, neither party has put forth legislation that would address the issue.

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Should I Try Making My Own Formula?

The FDA strongly advises caregivers not to make formula at home, as it can lead to severe “nutritional imbalances to unsafe products that can harm infants” and other very serious health concerns.

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What Should I Do?

The Infant Nutrition Council suggests caregivers reach out to Feeding America or dial 2-1-1 to be connected to a community specialist who can help. Local food pantries and pediatricians may also be able to help.

Many parents have also taken to social media in a kind of mutual aid network to help each other find the brands they need.