Tips for Parents Coping with Formula Shortage

posted by Darcie Follon on Friday, May 13, 2022

Numerous items have been impacted by supply chain issues and other factors in recent months; however, one of the more concerning ones is the current shortage of baby formula available.

Just last week, 43% of the popular baby formula brands were sold out at retailers around the United States. We had been seeing that the out of stock rate staying between about 2% and 8%. The shortage jumped to 30% in April and has continued to climb. Iowa has been one of six states with supply shortages higher than 50%, which is a substantial amount for us here.

The shortage of baby formula was exacerbated when Abbott, the producer of a popular formula brand called Similac, shutdown a major factory in Michigan and issued numerous product recalls in February over contamination concerns. The FDA is still working on reopening this plant, but in the meantime, we are seeing a huge shortage.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week it is working closely with major infant formula manufacturers to increase the supply and help ensure that Abbott’s Sturgis facility can safely resume production. Meanwhile, here are some helpful tips:

  • Shop around. Be sure to shop outside of your local grocery store and supermarket stores. The pharmacies too have been a great source and I know they are working hard with their suppliers to keep a small stock on hand at all times. 
  • Don’t stock up. As hard as it is, and parents are anxious to keep that supply on hand, please be cognizant of other families and we ask that no one hoards formula.
  • Consider alternatives. There are also other brands of formula that may work for your child, other than those name brands that we tend to use more often, so contacting your physician to see what they would recommend.
  • Check online. Online retailers may have access to formula that local vendors do not. Also, while you’re online, search for local online support communities. We can share with each other sources where supplies can be found.

We encourage you to talk to you and your child’s healthcare provider for their recommendations. Maybe now is a great time to start introducing more baby foods to your child, if age appropriate. A baby that is seven months old, could easily tolerate more baby foods versus that newborn that a mom is just bringing home who can only have formula.

We do not recommend making your own homemade formula or watering down formula to make them last longer. Watering down formula can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems. Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against homemade formulas, due to safety and nutritional concerns.

There are also milk banks where breastfeeding moms have been able to donate their milk to. Please don’t borrow milk from a friend or someone else, please go through a milk bank where the process is done correctly and we know that that breastmilk is safe for child. Check out the website for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa to learn more about how to order donor milk or how to become a donor by following this link: Our Birth Center team is a local coordinator for the milk bank and can help facilitate the donor process.

Lastly, If you are a pregnant mom, now is a good time to consider breastfeeding your little one. Maybe you are a first time mom or you have other children at home and simply weren’t able to breastfeed them when they were little, now is the time to consider preparing for that. We have great resources in our area.

Our Spencer Hospital Birth Center has wonderful staff and lactation consultants to help you with your questions or concerns. They can offer support and education before baby’s arrival, during your Birth Center stay, and continue to offer support and assistance through your breast-feeding experience. Also, our Best Care for Better Babies program is a wonderful resource for continued support. As nurses, we can help you establish that breastfeeding routine within your home and provide you the support you need for successful breast-feeding and your other questions to best care for you little one.

  1. children
  2. parenting

About The Author

Darcie Follon

Darcie Follon is a Clay County Public Health Nurse and serves as a maternal-child health nurse.