For many families, baby formula is an essential part of nourishing their child. In some cases, infants may have digestive issues that require them to drink special formula instead of breastmilk. It’s also common for mothers to supplement breastfeeding with formula feeding due to low milk supply, returning to work, or other reasons. Some mothers may avoid breastfeeding entirely due to medical issues or personal choice. All scenarios are completely valid as long as the baby is getting the nutrients they need, but what happens when baby formula disappears off the shelves?
More than 40% of formula was out of stock in the United States in May of 2022 due to residual supply chain issues from the pandemic and product recalls by one of the largest producers of baby formula in the country. Parents scrambled as formula was subjected to price hikes and rations while inventory quickly dwindled, leaving many panicked about options for feeding their baby.
Keeping All Types of Families in Mind
Amid the crisis, some promoted breastfeeding as the solution to the formula shortage, even going so far as to shame parents for not breastfeeding. However, not every family includes a birth mother capable of nursing because of the wide variety of ways that families are built. Adoptive and foster families are left especially vulnerable as the shortage continues because they often solely rely on formula to feed their babies. Parents of children born via surrogacy are also left with very limited flexibility because their surrogate may not be able to provide breastmilk consistently, if at all, due to logistical or geographical reasons. These limitations may also disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ parents, who often pursue parenthood through adoption and surrogacy. In fact, same-sex couples are four-times more likely to adopt compared to opposite-sex couples. With these considerations in mind, it is evident that a multitude of families cannot simply turn to breastfeeding to get through the formula shortage, and in order to reach an inclusive solution we need to be considerate of all types of families.
How to Get By
Many families have been hopping between baby formula brands depending on what is available at a given time, while others have been able to receive breastmilk through milk banks in order to feed their babies. While the FDA continues to work on increasing formula supply in the US, those in need of baby formula can try the following:
- Find comparable formula brands for your baby’s specific needs to expand your options
- Purchase formula online from reputable sources such as Amazon or Walmart
- If possible, expand your search to smaller stores in less population-dense areas
- Contact your pediatrician for advice – they may be able to provide formula samples or direct you to another reputable formula source
- Visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website for more resources
As the shortage continues, parents and caregivers are advised not to dilute baby formula to make it last longer, use expired formula, or try making homemade formula. Additionally, families should be cautious when ordering formula online and should not informally share breastmilk due to potential health risks.
For updated information on available baby formula products, visit the FDA’s website.