Apr 29, 2022 - Economy

Families struggle to find baby formula as shortage intensifies

Baby formula on a shelf in a store in Chicago on January 2022.

Baby formula on a shelf in a store in Chicago in January 2022. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Families nationwide are struggling with an increasingly dire baby formula shortage.

Driving the news: The shortage, exacerbated by pandemic-induced supply chain issues and recent product recalls, has sent the price of formula skyrocketing in certain communities.

  • The shortage started in 2021 largely from production problems or distribution issues, and by mid-March, 29% of formula inventory was out of stock nationally, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.
  • It increased to 31% in April, according to Datasembly, a consumer product data analytics firm.

What they're saying: Diana Torres, the mother of a 5-month-old told WVIT, a Connecticut-based NBC affiliate, that finding formula has been a nightmare and that she's noticed price gouging through online sales.

  • WVIT reported that it found that a 3-pack of Similac baby formula sold for $238 on EBay, plus an additional $20 for shipping. The same product goes for around $130 at a wholesale store.
  • Multiple mothers around New York told WGRZ, another NBC affiliate in Buffalo that they've struggled to find formula in retail chains and online. When some had found formula, it was too expensive.
  • "My baby almost went without food for a least a day because I couldn't find it and it was expensive and had almost no money to get it. I struggle sometimes to find it," Cassidy Rogers, a mother from Orchard Park, New York, told WGRZ.
  • In Texas, 30-year-old mother Mary Salvador told the Houston Chronicle she's been searching Facebook for formula for her 3-month-old where products could be tampered with.

The big picture: Drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS Health and some retail chains have recently restricted how much formula consumers can purchase at one time, according to CBS News.

  • About 3 in 4 babies are given formula within their first six months as a complete or partial substitute for human milk.
  • Magna Dias, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine and pediatrician, told WVIT warned that mothers who are struggling to find formula should not attempt to make their own, should not dilute the formula they have to make it last longer and should not buy it online from sellers overseas.

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