The U.S. has recently been experiencing an unprecedented baby formula shortage, and parents everywhere are facing a living nightmare as they struggle to find formula to feed their children.
The Covid shopping panic caused many parents to buy formula in bulk, increasing demand drastically. As things settled in 2021 — and due to many parents having more than enough formula at home after the 2020 hoarding — demand dropped. But now, with a surge of births and more parents choosing to use formula, demand once again increased, and supply wasn’t able to keep up.
In isolation, this problem wouldn’t cause the emergency we’re seeing. But it was unfortunately exacerbated by a major recall back in February. Abbott Nutrition, the food sector arm of Abbott Laboratories, closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan in February after there reports of four infants becoming sick — and two dying — from bacterial infection in formula produced by the plant. Other problems with the plant were found, rendering it unable to reopen.
With Abbott Laboratories controlling 43% of the market and only two other companies in the formula game, the domestic formula market was tipped on its head with just this one recall. New manufacturers aren’t inclined to get in the game due to the fact that supply is dependent on birthrate, which has overall been decreasing: the field itself just isn’t that profitable.
Another layer to the issue is the imposition of strict laws to regulate importing formula from overseas. The intention was to ensure that formula is safe for infants in our country, but it mandates that local parents must rely almost exclusively on domestic brands.
In April of this year, New Jersey’s out-of-stock rates for formula were among the highest of any state nationally.
Many are asking why mothers can’t just breastfeed their babies during this shortage. While this is a solution for some, breastfeeding cannot take the place of formula for many mothers, ranging from the ones who work outside the home to the ones who can no longer producing enough milk, to their baby’s suckling problems, to allergies, to adoptive parents.
For worried New Jersey parents, here are some local resources in the search for both support and help in locating formula:
On Facebook, Mom Squad New Jersey is where parents can connect with others to help find formula resources. Formula Finder New Jersey is another great option. And Buy, Sell, Trade Baby Formula in NJ has become more useful and relevant than ever.
You can also try your nearest Community Action Partnership agency which may be able to help connect you with stores currently selling formula.
Some have found success by contacting manufacturing hotlines directly, though wait times may be long:
- MyGerber Baby Expert
- Abbott’s Consumer Hotline: 1-800-986-8540
- Reckitt’s Customer Service line: 1-800 BABY-123 (222-9123)
Experts are also recommending that those who can should speak to their child’s pediatrician, who may be able to help submit emergency request forms to procure formula.