The Great Formula Shortage of 2022

Bridget Mulroy

Before the invention of formula or the implementation of feeding bottles, wet nurses were the most common alternative to a mother’s milk. A wet nurse is a lactating woman who offers the milk her body produces to feed babies unrelated to herself. 

Considering the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ wet nurses have been known to feed other babies, regardless of lactation issues. 

Today, we have breast milk banks or places where women donate their milk to other babies.

It gets crazy in more modern times since the Abbott formula recall of 2022, which has led to The Great Formula Shortage, now turned into Crisis

The recall was due to the presence of a bacteria known as Cronobacter in formula produced by Abbott; one of the largest producers of baby formula in the United States. Parents can see if their formula has been recalled or not here.

The FDA reports two deaths caused by exposure to the bacteria detected in the formula.

Since the recall, parents have been buying up every other brand of formula that was still in the clear. This has caused The Great Formula Shortage of 2022. Now parents are panicking.

CVS has implemented a limit to how much formula can be purchased at one time, and pediatricians suggest buying no more than two weeks' worth of formula to subside the increasing demand. The FDA acknowledged the crisis and announced its methods for maintaining the supply.

Parents in New York are still worried since the supply has been spread so thinly. It has become more difficult to find, and prices are no longer fair. 

Formula was created in Germany by chemist Justus von Liebig in 1860. It was a powdered mix derived from wheat flor, malt flour, potassium bicarbonate, and cow’s milk. The mixture was required to be heated and cooled before serving infants and was a hit in Europe over the following decade.

The FDA, CDC, and AAP all advise against making formula from scratch as this could pose other risks of contamination. While parents are urged to feed babies on breastmilk or formula until at least a year, babies aged ten months and older have been transitioning to cow’s milk sooner than anticipated since the shortage doesn’t seem to be letting up.

Regardless, some pediatricians are advocating for DIY formulas because the shortage is becoming more severe. Dr. Ashley Turner BCDHH shares a recipe to make homemade formulas here.

Parents are scared. CNN reports 43% of formula supply as “gone,” “out-of-stock,” and “wiped off the shelves.” If parents aren’t spending hours a day in search of formula, then they’re forced to feed their babies a type of formula that irritates them or potentially trigger other issues. American parents have hit their limit. 

In light of the emergency, the United States has turned to Irish formula company Cootehill to deliver formula in an attempt to fill the gap.

Elaina Chamberlain is a mom and personal trainer from Monmouth County, New Jersey, and she has advice for parents struggling. “My advice to parents who are uncertain right now is to be one step ahead and research breast milk banks in their area. If their babies are 4 months or older, maybe now is a good time to begin introducing purées (avocado, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, etc). Start transitioning babies to solids sooner than planned this way they won’t depend on formula. For babies younger than 4 months, tap into the European formula market. Their formulas are way more regulated than the US and are much healthier anyway.” [Cootehill.]

Alternately, she adds, “If moms can start pumping again, they should! There are ways to get production going again. Moms can speak about this option with a lactation consultant or doula! Transitioning back to breastmilk, whether from the momma or a bank, might take some time at first, but ‘fed is best,’ right?”

In the meantime, breast milk banks such as Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Human Milk Banking Association are ready and waiting to help all babies in need.

Parental resilience is more prominent now than ever. Parents are doing everything and anything they can to ensure their babies eat; in a time when having babies is being challenged and regulated – don’t test them.

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Working formerly as a ghostwriter for a well-known New York magazine, Bridget Mulroy won two prestigious writing awards. As a writer, she takes a keen interest in topics that impact people's lives and will leave no stone unturned to share a story. Each of Bridget Mulroy's publications on the NewsBreak platform explores change and encourages readers to think beyond the limitations of the world they thought they knew.

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