Mothers across the nation have been facing a growing shortage in baby formula, which has now reached a level of crisis that is forcing parents to feed their babies over-priced formula that could make them sick. Parents are turning to social media to raise awareness of this growing crisis and beg for political action to be taken.

Household staples, such as baby formula, have been noticeably sparse on the grocery store shelves lately. Consequently, the cost of many groceries has gone up significantly. The cost of baby formula, for example, has risen about 18% over the last year.

What started with Covid-19 supply chain issues has grown into a much larger crisis for parents after being exacerbated by a recent recall by baby food manufacturer Abbott Nutrition. This recall occurred after at least four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections, and two died after consuming Abbott products.

In a recent statement on the damaging recall, Abbott said, “We know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage. We are working hard to help moms, dads, and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.”

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In some states where these formula shortages are particularly bad – Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota – some parents are facing astronomical price increases.

One mother of two baby girls, Ashley Hernandez, reported finding the baby formula she prefers for her children on eBay, going for $120 per can.

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While pediatricians are recommending that mothers breastfeed for as long as possible, the CDC reports that 67% of mothers struggle with this method.

Several major retailers are now setting limits on how much baby formula a customer can purchase. CVS and Walgreens have both limited their shoppers to three baby formula products per purchase both in stores and online. Target has similarly placed a four-item limit on their online store, but so far has no in-store limits.

One new mother took to Twitter, posting a picture of empty shelves in a grocery store where the baby formula should be. “If the [mainstream media] can talk about the toilet paper shortage every hour, they should be talking about the baby formula shortage at least,” she wrote. “We ended [up] finding the Amazon brand online but not everyone is so lucky to be able to feed that. Please share. This is every store!”

While this shortage poses a major problem for parents, it is even more strenuous for those whose babies require specialty formula for things like allergies or gastrointestinal issues.

One mother from Tennessee, Wynter Balthrop, has an eight-month-old baby girl who is only able to tolerate a hypoallergenic brand of formula. However, Balthrop and her husband are unable to find even one can/bottle of the proper formula, despite checking stores as far as three hours away from their home.

Wynter Balthrop with eight-month-old daughter Blakely

“[I was] panicking and sad for my girl because we had enough formula left to make one bottle – and I knew we would have to use the generic formula that hurt her stomach again. And that broke my heart,” said Balthrop.

31-year-old Danielle Weels faces the same problem as Balthrop: her baby girl can only tolerate hypoallergenic formula. Weels has been able to turn to a Facebook support group for mothers struggling with the shortage, which allows parents to “share what formula they have found in stores and where it’s located.”

“I, fortunately, have not had to resort to [buying formula that would make my baby sick] yet,” reported Weels. “I have, however, heard of other parents having to resort to that. I am lucky enough to have a support system that has helped with finding formula in other areas.”

Parents are also beginning to rely on people in other states who are buying available formula and sending it to in-need parents who don’t have access to the same product in their state/region.

A retail software company, Datasembly, reported that, since April, about 31% of formula products have been out of stock across the U.S.

Datasembly’s founder and CEO, Ben Reich, reported, “Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula.”

“We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions. Baby formula stock … has been one of the more affected categories so far in 2022, and one that will continue to demonstrate higher than average out-of-stock levels,” Reich added.

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