A baby formula shortage is plaguing the U.S., and it still seems to be getting worse. Data reported by CBS News found that retailers all over the country were short-stocked on 40 percent of the top-selling baby formula products in the week starting on April 24. Economists warn that this may not be the end of this particular supply chain issue.
The analysis comes from Datasembly, which tracked baby formula stock in over 11,000 stores around the U.S. The shortage of this essential product jumped from 31 percent to 40 percent over the course of April, and it has been climbing steadily for months now. Datasembly's CEO Ben Reich told reporters: "This is a shocking number that you don't see for other categories." For parents relying on baby formula to feed an infant, this may have dire consequences.
Some stores have already been limiting the amount of formula that a single customer can purchase over the last few months. These include Walgreens, CVS Health and Target in April. A Walgreens spokesperson confirmed that each customer is only allowed to purchase three infant and toddler formula products at a time due to "increased demand and various supplier issues." Spokespeople for CVS Health and Target gave similar statements, saying that it is working with vendors to procure more formula as soon as possible.
Perhaps equally distressing is the rise in prices of baby formula products. The average cost of formula has reportedly risen by 18 percent in the last year, and it may continue to climb. This will impact families of all demographics and economic statuses. According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 75 percent of babies in the U.S. rely on formula at some point. The CDC urges young parents to rely on breastfeeding as much as possible where their health permits.
According to CBS News, the problems contributing to this formula shortage are wide-ranging. They can be traced back to shortages of specific ingredients from all over the world -- either because of manufacturing shortages, shipping delays or other issues. Of course, many of these snags can be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most concrete good news on this front comes from the Infant Nutrition Council of America, which just issued a statement assuring young parents that these shortages will come to an end soon. In the meantime, it asks young parents to resist the urge to hoard formula or purchase more than they need. The Council says at a 10 to 14 day supply of formula should be sufficient.