Nearly a year after a nationwide shortage, many parents still need help finding baby formula on store shelves.
“There has really been a critical shortage since May — and not as critical shortage since February…there has never actually been a full shelf,” said a mother of two on Fox Business Channel.
The mom’s comments come as Reckitt, maker of Enfamil, a popular formula brand, told Reuters the shortage was likely to continue until spring.
The shortage began earlier in the year when a Sturgis, Michigan, Abbott Nutrition plant was shut down because of reports of infants being hospitalized after using products produced in the facility.
After several setbacks, production at the plant in Sturgis resumed in July. It prioritized the manufacturing of specialty formulas like EleCare and popular Similac products. While supply chains are beginning to normalize, in-store stock of baby formula remains unpredictable and uneven. At the shortage peak, the White House took steps to boost supply. However, the crisis is far from over.
While the national in-stock rate for baby formula has climbed back to 82.24%, the supply is still less than the 89% supply families were accustomed to before the formula crisis began in February.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, nearly 33% of American families had difficulties finding baby formula in September. In the meantime, almost one in five affected households had less than a week of formula accessible, according to the same survey.
Purchase limits restrict how much formula parents can buy
To prevent panic buying, some stores have put purchase limits in place, restricting the amount of baby formula an individual can purchase at one time. Parents don’t see an end to the crisis until purchase limits are eliminated.
“Parents can only buy two to four containers of formula at a time, depending on the store and those rules. That lasts a family about a week, a week and a half of formula,” explained one parent to Fox. She also explained that alternative resources are few and far between and not all formula is the same.
“Parents whose children are on Alimentum formulas or hypoallergenic formulas are not able to switch — and right now, those are the ones that we are very much missing. The standard formulas are available-is. You can sometimes substitute one type of Similac for another if it’s the standard, but you really can’t substitute [hypoallergenic formulas].”
The parent interviewed launched a Facebook group called “Baby Formula Search and Swap” in May to help parents nationwide. The group’s success has led her to expand to Instagram, but she cautioned other parents to be cautious of scams. “If it seems too good to be true and you’re on social media — it’s probably too good to be true.”