Baby Formula Shortage: Moms Tell of Guilt, Fear and 'Panic'

A nationwide shortage of baby formula is getting worse, with parents describing the desperate "panic" to get hold of much-needed products.

Some are glued to Facebook groups that share stock updates, others embark on lengthy drives from store to store, and all the while prices surge—with one parent reporting costs of $87-a-week.

The crisis is deepening. Forty percent of top-selling formula products were out of stock at retailers in the week ending April 24, according to Datasembly analysis of 11,000 stores.

That's up from 31 percent between April 3 and 24, and from 11 percent in November.

"Having to drive one to two hours away from your own home in hopes of finding formula for your child, then having no luck, makes you feel so guilty," Kenzie Martin, 29, of White Plains, New York, told Newsweek. She described the "real panic" to source formula for her four-month-old infant.

"I'm scared for the mothers who haven't welcomed a baby into the world yet and are already scared of not being able to feed their infant. I feel guilty for not being able to breastfeed or keep my supply from pumping going.

"It's scary to think I have to keep switching my baby's formula for whatever is available at my local stores every week and potentially messing up her tummy."

The increasingly constrained supply prompted a number of major retailers to limit how much baby formula customers can buy. Both CVS and Walgreens have confirmed that customers would be limited to three baby formula products per purchase.

Baby Formula Shortage
Stock image infant baby lying on mothers hand drinking milk from bottle. A nationwide shortage of baby formula is getting worse, with parents describing the desperate "panic" to get hold of much-needed products. Getty

Despite attempts to preserve inventory, many parents are despairing about the struggle to get hold of the formula products their infants need.

"Anyone have this kind, [they're] out everywhere?? Please anything helps," a mother recently wrote in a Facebook group alongside a picture of a formula product designed for babies born prematurely.

Many parents have turned to Facebook groups dedicated to selling baby formula and alerting them to stores that have replenished inventory.

One of them, Blanca Angel, from San Antonio, Texas, said she had to turn to baby formula after she was unable to continue breastfeeding her three-month-old daughter.

"As a first time mom everything is new to us but now having to deal with this formula shortage is something else," she told Newsweek.

"I've been looking for her formula and have had no luck, not even one can and I'm one and half cans away from running out. It's crazy that we have to deal with this and our babies are the one's being affected."

Verenice Aguirre, another mom in the group, has had to change the formula she gives her son several times because of lack of stock.

"I usually have to go to about four stores to find any kind of milk I've been using," she said. "It's been tough."

In New York, Martin said some retailers have resorted to overpricing products they have stocked up on. She has little choice but to pay the steep cost.

"You have to do what you have to," she said. "It's expensive—overly expensive. $50 for a can that barely lasts four days. My thoughts are with those struggling and scared along with me."

The shortage has gotten worse since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year warned parents not to use three popular powdered infant formulas manufactured at an Abbott Nutrition plant.

The FDA said the products were linked to several infant hospitalizations, including two deaths, due to a rare bacterial infection. Abbott didn't maintain clean surfaces used in producing and handling the powdered formula, the FDA said in its initial inspection of the Sturgis, Michigan, facility.

In a statement in April, Abbott said: "We know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage. We are working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies."