Why is there a baby formula shortage? Your questions answered

By Diana Shi

April 12, 2022

If you’re the parent of a newborn and cannot find formula anywhere, you are, unfortunately, in good company. The supply shortage has gotten so stark that stores have had to begin assigning specific amounts that families are allowed to buy. (Yes, that means rationing.) Parents have reportedly been forced to turn to scouring local stores and their online counterparts to find critical nutrition for their newborn infants.

Sellers of baby formula chalk up the need to limit purchases to ongoing supplier problems, which, along with a 40-year inflation peak, has bloated prices for daily goods. A Walgreens spokesperson told CBS this week that the pharmacy chain is aware of the decreased availability of infant formula on shelves, citing “increased demand and various supplier challenges” as the cause. Another spokesperson preeminently warned customers of an impending shortage back in November 2021—referencing a confluence of dwindling supply and a growing customer need for formula. Formula shortages have gradually sprung up, stemming from factors like lack of labor to manufacturing snafus around raw materials and packaging.

Walgreens, as a result, is limiting customers to only three products of infant and toddler formula per checkout session. Other retailers like CVS and Target have faced similar supply issues.

According to Datasembly, a price tracker that spoke with CBS, costs of popular formula brands have risen 29% since the third week of March and 11% since November 2021. In two dozen states, 30% of formula was sold out, the data company reports.

Moreover, some formula brands have been out of commission due to recalls. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled powdered baby formula produced by an Abbott Nutrition facility, including Similac and Alimentum.

Powdered formula is particularly important for infant health, as babies typically only consume either breast milk, formula products, or a combination.

These days, half-empty or completely depleted shelves are now a common occurrence for shoppers. From cereals to cleaning products, the lack of supplies has gotten increasingly worse in recent weeks, keeping pace with a nationwide supply shortage, pumped-up prices, and of course, elevated inflation rates.