Baby Formula Shortage Forces Maryland Moms, Dads To Hunt For Products

MARYLAND — A slew of pandemic supply chain issues worsened by recent baby formula recalls are sending parents in Maryland on a scavenger hunt just to find the highly sought-after formula to feed their infants. In Baltimore, for example, the out-of-stock percentage of infant formula surpassed 40 percent, leaving parents at a loss as to what to do.

Prices have also spiked in response to the shortage. According to CBS, the average cost of baby formula is up as much as 18 percent within the last 12 months.

Major drugstores are limiting baby formula purchases in response to the shortage, similar to the toilet paper shortage that blanketed the nation during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. A Walgreens spokesperson, citing “increased demand and various supplier issues,” told Patch that its customers are limited to three infant and toddler formula products per transaction. CVS has a similar policy, and Target is limiting customers to four baby formula products per transaction.

Find out what’s happening in Columbiawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

To help ease the impact of shortages and prevent hoarding, the American Academy of Pediatrics also is recommending that parents buy no more than a 10-day to a two-week supply of formula.

Most of the ingredients for baby formula are made from cow’s milk (but don’t substitute it; more about that later), and the US Agriculture Department estimates milk production will decline by an estimated 300 million pounds from 2021. Labor shortages and transportation problems are compounding the problem, along with the Abbott Nutrition recall of certain lots of Similac Alimentum and EleCare infant formulas produced at its Sturgis, Michigan, plant.

Find out what’s happening in Columbiawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

The retail data collection company Datasembly said in a mid-April report that its hyperlocal look at baby formula supplies across the country showed an out-of-stock rate of 31 percent. That’s up precipitously from a rate that fluctuated between 2 percent and 8 percent in the first half of 2021, then jumped to 23 percent in January.

“Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” Datasembly founder and CEO Ben Reich said in a statement on the company’s website. “We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions.”

He expects the trend to continue through 2022.

The shortage is particularly acute for families whose babies need specialized formula. Dr. Magna Dias, a pediatrician and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, told NPR that switching to another brand isn’t a problem for parents of healthy babies.

Dias told NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe the shortage of specialty formulas “is where I think, as a pediatrician, I have the most worry — that’s where we’re having our critical shortages in terms of supply — and also because those babies generally have been given a specific formula for a reason, because they’re not able to tolerate other formulas.”

Parents who need those formulas should consult their pediatrician about options, Dias advised. “And more so than everybody else, you know, there’s the importance of planning ahead when you require a specialty formula,” she said.

Below are five things parents need to know:

1. Order Directly From The Manufacturer

Parents magazine recommends checking the manufacturer’s website for the store locator, then calling ahead to make sure the product is in stock.

Also from Parents: Order directly from the manufacturer or trusted online retailers. Some third-party sellers may charge higher prices, consumer advocates warn.

2. Proceed With Caution

The Infant Nutrition Council of America cautioned parents to be careful about alternative sourcing, warning on its website that infant formula sold at flea markets, internet auction sites and some e-commerce sites “may have been improperly stored or shipped, which can negatively affect the quality of the formula.”

“Be sure to always look for any punctures, dents or evidence of potential tampering, and check the use by date on each container of formula before purchasing and/or using.”

Also, be careful about DIY formula recipes found online. According to a study published by Cambridge University Press, an analysis of blogs conducted using Google search showed homemade infant formula may contain harmful ingredients.

3. Check With A Food Bank

Local food banks, pantries and other programs supported by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, often have infant formula.

Another option: Parents can call their local 211 service to be connected with a community resources specialist who can help them find infant formula.

To find a foodbank near you, visit here.

4. Don’t Water Down Formula

Some parents are trying to stretch formula by watering it down, which Dias said is a dangerous mistake that has sent some babies “to the emergency room seizing.”

“It is a particular worry about parents doing substitutes or trying to stretch the formula out,” Dias told Rascoe. “And there’s a couple of worries there. One — your baby may not be getting enough nutrition if you’re not giving them all the calories that they need.

“And then the other thing is that babies — when they’re little, their kidneys are not mature. And for that reason, they need that perfect formulation. Otherwise, it could actually cause them to get very sick and have to come to the hospital.”

5. Don’t Substitute Cow’s Milk

Milk is one of the main ingredients in baby formula, but don’t switch babies over to it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Not only does it not have the nutrients infants need, babies’ kidneys can’t handle cow’s milk.

Babies can be switched to whole milk when they’re a year or a year and a half old, Dr. Steven Abrams, a professor of pediatrics at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, told Forbes. Toddlers just shy of that age can be switched with few problems, he said.

But “infants less than 12 months old should not be given whole milk since it can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and can lead to anemia and digestive problems,” Dr. Peggy Chapman, a pediatrician with One Medical in New York City, told Forbes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.