• Mardoche Mesine

The Red Alarming Issue of Baby Formula Shortage

This January, there has been a national baby formula shortage. Stores have not been able to keep shelves stocked with enough supply. As a result, many families are faced with a crisis threatening the health of their babies. Abbott Nutrition, one of the largest suppliers of baby formula in the United States was forced to shut down its manufacturing facility upon federal investigation after a recall of four babies who suffered bacterial infections from the baby formula.

“Breast is best,” is a slogan often used in the world of motherhood, obstetric clinics, and maternity wards in hospitals. This slogan signifies the nutritional value of breastfeeding as opposed to infant formula milk. However, not every mother can breastfeed their child for many reasons, and amid the shortage crisis, “just breastfeed” is said very loosely to shame mothers who aren’t breastfeeding in the first place.

Past breast surgery, severe illness, under-going chemotherapy, mood-altering drugs, low milk supply, triggers of breastfeeding such as uncomfortable past experiences with breastfeeding, dealing with Post-Partum Depression, infant allergic reaction to or rejection of the mother’s milk, the time insensitivity of breastfeeding, requirements of paid parental leave, and issues with mental and physical well-being are the ‘many reasons’ that mothers are faced with the challenge of breastfeeding. These factors are overlooked by society simply because breastfeeding is viewed as the easiest and most feasible thing a mother can do.

As mentioned in ‘Just Breastfeed’ Is the Worst Thing You Can Say to a Parent, “the numbers prove our reliance on formula to supplement feeding and keep our babies healthy. Whatever the reason, not having access to formula, as so many millions of parents are experiencing across the U.S., is a terrifying prospect for those who rely on it to keep their children alive,” tells us how vital it is for a baby’s well-being. Back in the 1950s, if mothers could not breastfeed, there was no alternative such as that of baby formula today. As a result, many babies during this time died from illness or starvation.

One of the most common things taking place due to the very low shortage of supply is diluting formula. As far as experts say, diluting is highly unrecommended because of the interruption it can cause to an infant’s inability to absorb the necessary nutrients. The effects of diluting baby formula can cause seizures, brain damage, and death. Many sources suggest that the best solutions include shopping beyond the grocery store, seeking a pediatrician’s help, changing formula brands, introducing solid foods to babies over 6 months, no dilution, or substituting another milk. Although baby formula shortage has been an ongoing alarming issue since March 2022, there have been significant efforts to mitigate this issue. As of June, Abbott has announced the restarting of formula production in its Sturgis, Michigan facility along with other formulas.

The thought of baby formula shortage occurring in the U.S. is not what any parent, caregiver, or health care provider could imagine happening. With all that has transversed since March, regaining the trust of those affected by the shortage will take its course. Several actions have been announced by President Biden such as Invoking the Defense Production Act and Launching Operation Fly Formula. Generally, these actions are to ensure ingredients are safe and healthy for infant formula, and for faster importation of formulas into stores and supply chains.


Speaking Plainly:

  • Infant formula shortage caused by Abbott Nutrition’s voluntary recall.

  • Parents, caregivers, and health care providers are faced with empty shelves of baby formula in grocery stores and are out of stock on Amazon Prime.

  • Nutritional deficiencies can occur by watering down supply or making their own- it is highly recommended to avoid manipulating baby formula to make “supply last.”

  • Breastfeeding is not free, there are many big deal factors such as it being time-insensitive, requires paid parental leave, breastfeeding education, and much more.

  • There can be a toll on mental and physical health during the period of breastfeeding.