Pregnancy

Is there a formula shortage in the U.S.? Here’s what you need to know

Baby formula is becoming difficult to find in states all over the country, marking one more worry for parents amid the COVID-19 pandemic about a potential formula shortage. Some baby formulas are out of stock in various parts of the country, which is causing parents and caregivers concern over how they’ll be able to continue to feed their babies.

Parents have been reporting shortages of Gerber, Enfamil, Similac, and other popular formula brands at stores across the country. According to The New York Times, the shortage is likely the result of a few issues: the supply chain causing ingredient shortages, staff shortages that are causing production and transportation delays.

The Wall Street Journal reports that retail chains like Walmart and CVS place the blame on supply issues, saying formula manufacturers are running low on ingredients and packing materials while also navigating labor shortages.

Formula manufacturers, however, say they have enough supplies but retailers aren’t stocking their shelves with products quickly enough (also likely due to labor shortages). Formula shortages also vary based on location, and The Wall Street Journal also points out that many relocations have occurred throughout the pandemic.

The Infant Nutrition Council of America acknowledged there are some supply issues.

“Broadly, there are reports of challenges across retail supply chains, from transportation and logistics to some anecdotal evidence suggesting pantry-loading behaviors, which can put increased pressure on in-store inventory,” a spokesman for the group said in a statement.

According to retail research from market research company IRI, baby formula accounted for more than $4 billion in U.S. sales in 2021, a 4.5% increase from 2020. KK Davey, the client engagement president at IRI, tells CBS News that the current shortage has grown worse during the last month.

Davey says the average national in-stock rate before the pandemic was 95% for major brands of formula powder. As of last week, rates of availability across 10 national retailers ranged from 98% to 75%. In major cities like Seattle, Wichita, and Tucson, powdered formula was less available.

“Some of the shortages are related to procuring the raw materials, some of it in production, some of it is in packaging…and then labor shortages in the factory, transportation,” Davey confirmed.

Reckitt, the company that makes Enfamil, told CBS News it has “ample supply” of its formula products.

“We have taken steps to ramp up production and are currently shipping 50% more product, to address issues as fast as possible,” a Reckitt spokesperson said in a statement. 

Other major retailers and formula companies also confirmed to CBS News that they are each dedicated to ensuring parents and caregivers will have the formula they need moving forward.

Facing shortages and the possibility of having to switch formulas is stressful for new moms and dads alike, no doubt. Here are some possible solutions in the meantime.

Tips for navigating the formula shortage

  • Call around your local stores to see if your formula is in stock. If not, ask if and when they expect to receive more product.
  • Reach out to local parent groups on social media. You can usually find moms willing to share any excess formula they may have on-hand.
  • Call your pediatrician’s office to check on their formula supply, especially if your baby is on a specialized formula for allergy or nutritional reasons.

Talk with your pediatrician about switching formulas if you are experiencing supply issues, or if you have any questions or concerns regarding the shortage.

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