The formula for babies has been in short supply throughout the United States, threatening the
health of infants as well as other people who rely on it to provide their food.
Experts believe that this is the biggest formula shortage in the past few many years. This is also
the latest instance of the US health system’s failings repeatedly being most severe for those
with complicated medical conditions or who are economically disadvantaged.
The problem is traced to a problem with contamination in an Abbott manufacturing facility that
makes a lot of the Similac formula along with several other brands for the US market. Abbott
decided to shut down the factory in February due to complaints from customers about the
formula’s contamination that led to the deaths of two babies. In mid-May, the factory was still not
operating again. As Politico published this week It’s not the case that Abbott along with the FDA
haven’t agreed on a deal that would permit the plant to restart production of formula, and also
help ease the shortage.
The factory’s long-term shutdown along with supply chain issues with the formula ingredients
and packaging has caused the supply of formula to dry quickly. In the United States, around
40% of the most well-known baby formula brands had been out of stock on April 24, as per The Wall Street Journal, more than the 10-percent average during normal times. Certain regions of
the nation such as those in the San Antonio metropolitan area, are currently seeing over 50% of
their usual inventory being out of stock. The panic buying in the wake that there is a shortage
led to major chains having to restrict the amount of bottles of baby formula that a single person
is able to purchase. Officials in the public sector are already concerned about the potential for
If supplies remain restricted, some individuals may be struggling to feed their kids or
themselves. People of color, those who live in poverty, and those who need to take special diets
for medical reasons, are likely to be the most affected by the economic and health
consequences of a long-term shortage in the formula.
“Certainly, the families who have fewer resources, have fewer options, who aren’t able to pay
premium prices are going to be more at risk,” said Ann Kellams, a University of Virginia faculty
pediatrician, who is also the director of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
The reason why a shortage of baby formula is so critical explained
A majority of families rely on infant formula at one level or another. About one-in-five infants
receive formula in the first two days of their lives, according to the CDC. After three months less
than half of infants are breastfeeding exclusively, which means they’re taking one formula
However, all families aren’t alike in their dependence on formulas. As per CDC survey
information, those who live in poverty are the most likely to claim that they’ve supplemented
their formula during the initial 3 months of their child’s life. Black, Hispanic, Asian, as well as
American Indian parents, are most likely to report that they have used formula in the past three
months than white parents.
For some, the formula isn’t an option but an absolute requirement. Sometimes, infants struggle
with breastfeeding and require a formula to maintain weight gain. But immune disorders or
allergies could also call for formula, even into adulthood and into childhood. As Politico stated in
their report, a quarter of Americans suffer from a metabolic disorder such that amino acid
formulas are the only way to survive.
The changing of formulas is certainly feasible however, it could be a challenge for infants due to
digestive problems — and it can be difficult when a child’s food preferences are particularly
demanding. In the event of natural disasters, where the formula is less available as well, the
CDC recommends mothers who are formula users consider breastfeeding more.
However, for certain people, this isn’t likely to happen because they are unable to breastfeed or
pump more, or due to the fact that they require a special formula. Experts strongly recommend
anyone from attempting to create the formula themselves at home citing the potential for serious
risks that could lead to death when a non-professional does not find the correct formula.
Many families are left with limited options before them, leading them to consider what they can
provide food for a loved one who is dependent on out-of-stock special formulas to live.
Certain parents are taking drastic steps, as reports in the New York Times reporting parents are
rationing formula or drinking it down and both can cause harm to children. Certain experts
advise visiting your doctor for samples, but this isn’t the only way you can be a victim of the US
health system does not favor those who are poor and who are of color and are also less likely to
receive a consistent source of health medical care.
The US policy failings are interfering with the problem of the formula
The weak support offered to infants and new parents are only making it more difficult for families
to deal with the shortage of baby formula. If a parent with an unpaid job wants to pump milk at
work or have time off to breastfeed their child at home, they’re those most likely to not get paid
leave for their families as well as to have enough room and space at work to pump.
A more robust social safety net would have made the US better prepared to handle this issue,
Kellams argued. Kellams argued that because of the lack of paid parental leave in the US and
the fact that the nation is constantly forcing parents of new children to make difficult choices
about how they can be able to balance taking charge of their children while also balancing the
need to provide for their families financially.
This issue will only become more severe in a situation such as this, when parents may struggle
to source and supply the most basic food for their children due to the economic straits the US
has created for them.
“Part of the problem could have been prevented if we took better care of our children,” Kellams
There is no way to know how long the shortage is likely to be, but advocacy groups such as the
National WIC Association want a better understanding of how this crisis was created. They point
out the massive level of competition in the market for the formula which has only three
companies offering formula to the 1 million infants that receive formula under WIC. WIC
The FDA has also offered suggestions on methods by which the US can avoid future
emergencies. At present, there is no law that stipulates that formula manufacturers must inform
the federal government of the possibility of supply disruptions. The requirement of notice could
give public officials the chance to begin creating contingency plans.
However, for the moment the shortage of formula is a further illustration of the failings of the US
health system, which sees the most affluent country in the world trying to provide basic nutrition
to its children.
According to Brian Dittmeier, senior director of public policy for WIC, the National WIC
Association, said in an announcement: “As a country, we must take a hard look at how we got to