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The Pandemic upended the global baby food market. And while the industry is slowly getting back on its feet, parents are still struggling to find affordable, reliable sources of infant formula.

In recent years, baby formula shortages have become more common as manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand. In 2017, a global shortage of a key ingredient used in baby formula left parents scrambling to find alternatives. The shortage was caused by an unprecedented number of babies being born in China. Yes, you read that correctly. There were speculations that Chinese parents had a change in taste and an increased preference for Western-made baby formulas, which resulted in shortages.

According to CNN, the market research firm IRI found that baby formula stocks at merchants were 17% lower in mid-January of this year than they were in mid-February of 2020, just before the COVID Pandemic.

Causes of Formula Shortages in 2022

Supply Chain Disruptions

In 2022, Pandemic and supply chain challenges that came about because of the prolonged lockdown were initially blamed for the lack of formula in US retail stores. The supply chain disruptions led to shortages. This has been a general and accepted explanation.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal in January, Walmart and CVS were blaming supply chain problems on manufacturers for delays in shipments. Suppliers, on the other hand, said that retailers were not getting products to shelves when they receive them. CBS recently reported about this.

Formula Recalls

To add to an already struggling formula market, FDA announced this past week(March 11 2022) that it was recalling a number of popular brands such as Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare powdered infant formulas. All the brands are manufactured by Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan.

Below is a full list of about 50 brands of the recalled formulas;

  1. Abbott Similac 360 Total Care Infant Formula with Iron 
  2. Abbott Similac Advance
  3. Abbott Similac Advance Step-1
  4. Abbott Similac Advance Step-2 
  5. Abbott Similac Advance Infant Formula with Iron
  6. Abbott Similac Human Milk Fortifier
  7. Abbott Similac Organic
  8. Abbott Similac Organic with A2 Milk Infant Formula with Iron
  9. Abbott Similac Organic with A2 Milk Toddler Drink
  10. Abbott Similac Organic Toddler with A2 Milk Infant Formula with Iron
  11. Abbott Similac Pro-Advance
  12. Abbott Similac Pro-Advance Infant Formula with Iron
  13. Abbott Similac Pro-Sensitive Infant Formula with Iron
  14. Abbott Similac Pro-Total Comfort Infant Formula with Iron
  15. Abbott Similac Sensitive 
  16. Abbott Similac Sensitive Infant Formula with Iron
  17. Abbott Similac Sensitive Lactose Sensitivity
  18. Abbott Similac for Supplementation
  19. Abbott Similac For Spit Up Infant Formula with Iron
  20. Abbott Similac Total Comfort
  21. Abbott Similac Total Comfort Infant Formula with Iron
  22. Abbott Similac EleCare HMO
  23. Abbott Similac EleCare
  24. Abbott EleCare Similac Gold
  25. Abbott EleCare Similac
  26. Abbott Similac PM 60/40 – only lot code 27032K80 (can) / 27032K800 (case)

Alimentum Products

  1. Abbott Infant Formula Powder 
  2. Abbott Similac Alimentum
  3. Abbott Similac Alimentum Allergies & Colic Hypoallergenic Infant Formula 
  4. Abbott Similac Alimentum with 2′-FL HMO
  5. Abbott Similac Alimentum Eye Q Plus
  6. Abbott Similac Alimentum HMO
  7. Abbott Alimentum HMO
  8. Abbott Similac Alimentum infant formula
  9. Abbott Similac Alimentum Infant Formula with Iron
  10. Abbott Similac Alimentum Toddler Drink

EleCare Products

  1. Abbott EleCare 
  2. Abbott EleCare Amino Acid-Based Powder Infant Formula with Iron
  3. Abbott EleCare Infant Formula Unflavoured 
  4. Abbott EleCare Junior Vanilla
  5. Abbott EleCare Jr Similac Vanilla
  6. Abbott EleCare Jr Amino Acid-Based Nutrition Powder Unflavored
  7. Abbott EleCare Jr Amino Acid-Based Nutrition Powder Banana
  8. Abbott EleCare Jr Amino Acid-Based Nutrition Powder Chocolate
  9. Abbott EleCare Similac
  10. Abbott EleCare Similac Gold
  11. Abbott Similac EleCare HMO
  12. Abbott Similac EleCare
  13. EleCare LCP Hypoallergenic

Why were they recalled?

Following an FDA investigation where four infants were hospitalized because of some bacterial infection in Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas between September 6, 2021, and January 4, 2022. All four cases involved Cronobacter bacteria which causes severe intestinal infections, bloodstream infections, and meningitis in infants.

Poor feeding, restlessness, temperature changes, jaundice, grunting respiration and abnormal body movements are signs of a Cronobacter infection.

What to do:

Try a new formula brand:

If you are using one of the recalled formulas, try a different brand until the recall is over. It is normal and totally safe to switch from one brand to another so long as they are the same type of formula in composition. Do not, however, switch from soy-based formula to cow-milk-based formula as those are totally different kinds of formula.

Try other stores

Your regular grocery store is not the only retailer with critical infant formulas. You can find formulas in convenience stores, gas stations, baby specialty stores and drugstores. If you are having a hard time finding the specific type of formula that you need, try a store that specializes in baby products.

Check online

If you cannot find the formula you need in stores near you, check online. There are many retailers who will ship directly to your home.

Get guidance from pediatricians

If your baby uses specialty formulas such as hypoallergenic formula or formulas for premature infants, it is especially important to talk to your pediatrician before trying a new kind of formula. Pediatricians can help you find the best formula for your baby and also monitor your baby’s health if they are using a special formula.

Perhaps it’s time to go solids

You can start transitioning your baby to solid food if they are above 6 months. This will help to ease the pressure of finding a specific type of formula. Start with simple foods such as rice cereal, oatmeal, or mashed fruits and vegetables. CDC recommends starting out with one solid food type at a time. No rush.

Do not stop breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding, continue to do so. It is the healthiest option for both you and your baby. The formula is only meant to be a supplement, not a replacement, for breast milk.

What not to do: Make your own formula

AAP and FDA recommend against trying to make your own formula at home. This is because ‘infants have very specific nutritional needs, which require a very specific balance of hydration and nutritional density.’ Doing this at home will not be possible. Regular formulas are carefully regulated to ensure safety and lack of contaminants. Homemade formulas also do not have the same benefits as store-bought infant formulas.

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