Parents struggle to get their hands on baby formula amidst growing shortage

Walgreens, Walmart, Target, and Kroger stores are now limiting purchases of all formulas per customer.
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT
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FOX CITIES, Wis. (WBAY) - A shortage of baby formula is getting worse and leading some retailers to limit how much customers can buy in a given transaction.

“As it comes to the end of the month I think, here I go again. I’m going to have to go through this all again trying to find his formula,” Jennifer Fulcer of Appleton said.

Walgreens, Walmart, Target, and Kroger stores are now limiting purchases of all formulas per customer.

This comes just two months after the health care company Abbott recalled some of its powdered baby formula.

Parents say even with limits, it’s hard to find even one can, leading some to make multiple stops a day or travel across the state to find what they need.

“I went as far as Eagle River just to go to Walmart, Pick n’ Save, Target, you name it, and I could not find her formula,” Samantha Hartl of Oshkosh said.

Thousands of young babies across the country rely on formula each year. Just 25% of infants born in 2017 were fed exclusively through breastfeeding in their first six months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve gone through shortages with a bunch of different things, but when it comes to a baby it’s a whole different world because there is only so much you can do,” Fulcer said.

Medical experts say families can try things like ordering online instead of going to the store, consider using approved substitutions, and check with their insurance provider for additional supplies.

“Talking to your pediatrician or if, you know, depending on if they have specialists involved talking to their doctors to try to figure out what is a good equivalent to go to if we can’t find a formula as the best option,” Dr. Sneha Subbarayan, a pediatrician with ThedaCare, said.

Dr. Subbarayan said while there is no easy fix to the problem, she stresses the worst thing you can do is to dilute the formula you do have.

“If you water down formula to try to help make it last longer that can actually one provide inadequate nutrition and, two, can actually cause problems with their electrolytes, cause low sodium levels, which can lead to brain damage and seizures,” Subbarayan said.

It’s unclear how long the shortage will last. Manufacturers are ramping up production to make up the difference, but it could still be several weeks before shoppers notice a difference on the shelves.

Supply chains, labor issues and a recent, massive recall lead to a nationwide formula shortage. Many big retailers are limiting purchases.

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