Time-saving measures are important for Amanda Duffy who is the mom of 8-month-old twin girls.
“With having twins on formula, we’ve found that ordering directly through Enfamil is the cheapest way for us to order our formula in bulk. We get four containers with every order which auto ships biweekly,” according to the Grovetown resident.
Until March, that is.
“We got a notice from Enfamil regarding our end of March order being delayed due to our formula being backordered. So I got really nervous about having enough,” she said.
Supply chain issues connected with COVID-19 has parents across the country searching for supplies of formula for their babies.
The shortage was exacerbated when, in February 2022, one of the largest manufacturers announced a recall of formula produced in its Sturgis, Mich. manufacturing facility.
Abbott posted information about the recall of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare, on its website saying, “Abbott is voluntarily recalling these products after four consumer complaints related to Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella Newport in infants who had consumed powder infant formula manufactured in this facility.”
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Registered Dietician Desha McNeair at Children’s Hospital of Georgia said the company also halted production at that facility, placing a strain on other manufacturers.
She called it “the perfect storm,” sending parents searching stores and websites.
It’s a storm Duffy knows all too well.
“I went on a hunt with my girls in tow in their stroller. I went to Target then searched online at Buy Buy Baby and looked on Amazon and a few other places online and everywhere was sold out. I ended up going to a Kroger and finding a whole bunch and although I’m not proud of it, I almost bought them out of the formula my girls need. It’s been super terrifying honestly because of how fast they go through a container even though we’ve started solids; their diet is still mostly formula and will be for another few months until they’re about 1 year old,” said Duffy, whose girls use Enfamil Reguline.
After the recall, Duffy said some Similac users switched to the Enfamil Reguline adding to the short supplies.
McNeair offered tips on helping parents find formula.
“I encourage parents to look directly at the manufacturers website,” said. “We’re giving out samples when they are discharged home from the hospital so that they have a little bit of a buffer. They can contact your local pediatrician to see if they have any samples you can use.”
She said it can be especially worrisome for the infants they see at the children’s hospital neonatal intensive care unit.
“A lot of the formulas we send babies out on are our specialty formula. So, hormones for premature infants or formulas for babies who have different medical conditions. Those formulas in particular are really hard to find. It adds another layer, I think, panic when you have a medically complex child that you can’t feed as well,” she said.
She advised parents to tell friends and family what formula they need and ask them to keep their eyes open when they go shopping and buy a can.
Buying enough formula can be a challenge. Most retail chains, like Walgreens, are limiting quantities.
“Due to increased demand and various supplier challenges, infant and toddler formulas are seeing constraint across the country. Similar to other retailers, we put into effect purchase limits of three per transaction on all infant and toddler formula to help improve inventory,” said Megan Boyd, senior manager of Retail Merchandising and Marketing Communications in response to an email request.
CVS provided a similar response to an email request.
“Following supplier challenges and increased customer demand, we currently have a limit of three baby formula products per purchase in our stores and online,” said Matt Blanchette, senior manager of Retail Communications, CVS Pharmacy.
Both stores say they are working with suppliers and vendors to get inventory available for customers.
Duffy said the shortage has caused her a lot of additional anxiety.
“The scariest thing as a new first time mom that no one earned me about — the fear of not being able to feed your baby, in my case, babies. I’ve lost sleep and my stress level has been so much higher because of this issue,” she said.
Adding to the problem of buying enough formulas is parents’ hesitation to buy based on what is available, requiring them to switch to a brand other than what they have been using.
“It’s not dangerous. You may see some constipation, maybe a little discomfort to get used to the new formula, but it won’t be dangerous at all,” McNeair said, adding, “A lot of the standard formulas are very comparable, the components are very, very similar. “So there really should not be any issues swapping between those.”
One thing McNeair advises strongly against is parents trying to make a homemade formula using information found through a simple Internet search.
She explained formula is highly regulated, designed to ensure all the components are correct and can meet the nutritional needs of the child. One formula she found did not have the necessary 20 calories per ounce because it did not contain enough fat for a baby’s developing brain.
“And the dangerous part of this is the electrolyte composition. It had almost double the amount of sodium, it had a lot more potassium than baby needs. Those sorts of things are what can make a baby have to go to the hospital if they’re electrolyte imbalances,” she said.
She added parents should not give whole milk to infants under one year of age. Nor should they dilute a formula to make it last longer.
She said they, like the retail chains, are in constant contact with manufacturers and companies have said they are working to ramp up production. However, there is no timeline to predict when the available supply will improve.
In the meantime, McNeair advised patients to contact local hospitals, including the children’s hospital, and their pediatrician to ask if they have samples to help tide the parents over until they can find formula to purchase.
“If we have samples, we will happily give them out,” she said.
Duffy said she was able to create a stockpile for her girls after taking a trip to see her family up North. She had her sister on the lookout at stores like CVS and Walgreens and buy some containers. But her worries may be coming to an end.
“Enfamil came through for us at the end of April after we decided to skip our backordered shipment having found enough locally to last a little shy of four weeks,” she said.
Duffy said she’s a part of several Facebook groups for new moms and the support these mothers are giving one another has been amazing.
“I know there’s a couple locally where some moms who can pump, are offering up their frozen stash to help feed other moms’ babies,” she said, citing a recent post from a mom. “It’s really awesome to see so moms helping other moms for truly the sake of the littles.”