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    Why the US has a baby formula shortage — and who is most at risk

    America is enduring its worst baby formula shortage in decades.

    Why baby formula is in short supply — and who is most at risk

    America is enduring its worst baby formula shortage in decades.

    By Dylan [email protected]@vox.com May 12, 2022, 2:50pm EDT

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    Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Baby formula has been running low all over the United States, threatening the health of infants and other people who depend on it for their sustenance.

    Experts say this is the worst formula shortage in decades. It’s also the latest example of how the US health system’s failures consistently fall hardest on people with complex medical conditions and people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

    The shortage can be traced back to a contamination problem at an Abbott factory that produces much of the Similac formula, as well as several other brands, for the US market, Abbott voluntarily shut down the factory in February, amid consumer complaints about contaminated formula that was linked to two infant deaths. As of mid-May, it’s still not up and running again. As Politico reported this week, it’s not exactly clear why Abbott and the FDA have failed to come to an agreement that would allow the plant to resume producing formula and help alleviate the shortage.

    That factory’s prolonged shutdown, combined with general supply-chain problems for the formula ingredients and packaging, have led to formula stock drying up fast. Nationwide, about 40 percent of the most popular baby formula brands were out of stock as of April 24, according to the Wall Street Journal, much higher than the 10 percent average in normal times. Some parts of the country, like the San Antonio metropolitan area, are seeing more than half of their normal supply out of stock. Panic buying amid news of the shortage has already caused some major chains to limit the number of formula containers that any one person can buy. Public officials are already worried about the possibility of price gouging.

    As long as supplies are limited, some people may struggle to feed their children or themselves. It is people of color and people living in poverty, along with the people who must take special formulas for medical reasons, who will be most exposed to the health and economic consequences of a prolonged formula shortage.

    “Certainly, the families who have fewer resources, have fewer options, who aren’t able to pay premium prices are going to be more at risk,” said Ann Kellams, a University of Virginia faculty pediatrician and board president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

    Why a baby formula shortage is so serious, briefly explained

    Most families rely on infant formula to one degree or another. Nearly one in five babies receive formula within their first two days of life, according to the CDC. By three months, less than half of babies are exclusively breastfeeding, meaning they are taking at least some formula as a supplement.

    But all families are not equally reliant on formulas. According to CDC survey data, people living in poverty are most likely to report that they’ve supplemented with formula in the first three months of their baby’s life. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian parents are all more likely to say that they used formula within three months than white parents.

    And for some people, formula isn’t a choice but a necessity. Sometimes an infant struggles with breastfeeding and needs formula to continue gaining weight. But allergies or immune conditions can also necessitate using formula, including into childhood and adulthood. As Politico noted in its report, about 2,000 Americans have a metabolic disorder so severe that amino acid formula is their only means of survival.

    Changing formulas is definitely possible, but can still be tricky with infants because of digestive issues — and can be difficult if a person’s dietary needs are especially strict. During natural disasters, when formula can become even more scarce, the CDC urges breastfeeding mothers who also use formula to consider breastfeeding more.

    But for some people, that is not going to be possible, either because they can’t breastfeed or pump more or because they need specialty formula. And experts strongly discourage people from trying to make their own formula at home, giving the severe risks — including death — if a nonprofessional doesn’t get the formula right.

    That leaves many families with few options available to them, prompting them to wonder how they will feed a loved one who depends on out-of-stock specialty formula to survive.

    Some are taking drastic measures, with the New York Times reporting parents have been rationing formula or watering it down, both of which can be harmful to kids. Some experts recommend checking with your pediatrician for samples, but that is another way in which the US health system disadvantages certain people: People in poverty and people of color are also less likely to have a regular source of health care.

    The US policy failures are colliding in the formula shortage

    America’s weak support for new parents and babies will only make it harder for people to cope with the baby formula shortage. Even if a parent at a low-wage job wanted to pump breast milk at work or take time off to be able to breastfeed a baby at home, they are also the workers who are least likely to have paid family leave or have adequate space and time at their workplace to pump.

    Source : www.vox.com

    Baby formula shortage 2022: How did it start? When will it end?

    The formula shortage may continue for months.

    Updated 19 hours ago - Health

    Why there is a baby formula crisis and what can be done about it

    Herb Scribner

    Photo: Paul Hennessy via Getty Images

    The ongoing baby formula shortage may not end anytime soon as retailers and manufacturers are now expecting a months-long delay until a full supply of formula hits shelves again.

    The big picture: The shortage has caused panic among the millions of parents and caregivers in the U.S. who rely on formula to feed their children.

    "It's really critical for their growth and development that they are able to access the nutrition that they need," Danielle Dooley, a pediatrician at the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Hospital, told the Washington Post.

    What is baby formula?

    Baby or infant formula is full of nutrients to help babies develop and grow and come in a variety of forms. Formula makers often rely on federal standards for designing their formulas.

    The most common type is cow milk that has been altered to become more like breastmilk, according to Mayo Clinic.

    Soy-based formulas are an option for babies who are intolerant or allergic to milk. And then there are protein hydrolysate formulas for babies who can't tolerate milk- or soy-based formulas.

    Formulas can come in powdered form, as a concentrated liquid and as ready-to-use.

    Why do people use formula instead of breastmilk?

    The formulas are designed to mimic breastmilk, the Associated Press reports, though doctors often recommend breastfeeding until babies are at least 6 months old.

    However, many women run into issues and face difficulty breastfeeding. For example, some people are unable to produce high supplies of milk and need to supplement with formula to make sure their baby is eating enough. Others may be on certain medications that would make breastfeeding dangerous.

    Mothers will also stop breastfeeding long-term because they will return to work and won't have the time or equipment necessary, AP reports.

    In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 60% of new moms stop breastfeeding sooner than they planned.

    Yes, but: States and the federal government have been pushing for working mothers to receive more break time and help for breastfeeding.

    How did the baby formula shortage happen?

    Supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent recall led to an immense shortage of baby formula across the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports.In February, Abbott Nutrition — one of the largest suppliers for baby formula in the United States — recalled several major brands of its formula after federal officials investigated four babies who suffered bacterial infections from baby formula made at Abbott's factory in Sturgis, Michigan.

    The Food and Drug Administration said that the bacterium known as Cronobacter sakazakii "may have contributed to the cause of death for both patients."

    The FDA said it would "take additional time" to confirm more about the existence of Cronobacter in the formula.

    Who is impacted by the baby formula shortage?

    Parents and caregivers are heavily impacted by this shortage.

    About 25% of parents breastfeed their children until they're 6 months old, according to the CDC.

    This means the majority of parents and caregivers use baby formula to some extent, per the Washington Post.

    Premature infants and babies with certain medical conditions face tremendous risk since they need specialized formulas because of their specific medical conditions.

    Lindsey Groff, the executive director of the Human Milk Bank Association of North America, told NBC News that premature and medically fragile infants can receive help from food banks.

    Groff said "every milk bank that I have spoken with has seen a major increase in demand."

    Some older children and even adults need certain specialty formulas to stay alive, Politico notes.

    Impoverished families are struggling from the shortage, too, since the remaining supplies have caused a price gouge at many retail stores and online sellers, including eBay.Black infants are disproportionately impacted as only 76% are ever breastfed, below the national average of 84%, per the CDC.What they're saying: "It's been impossible to get our hands on it, and the only ones we can find online, people price-gouged," parent Jessi Whitesides told the Washington Post. "There were two cases on Ebay, which is eight cans, that was going for $800."

    "It's very scary, especially for the families that have to have a particular blend formula, because now they're worried about how can they feed their baby?" Megan Sparks, a manager for Any Baby Can, a nonprofit that helps children with special needs, told the New York Times.

    What can be done to stop the baby formula shortage?

    Data: Datasembly; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

    The White House said Friday that Abbott Nutrition will give low-income families the flexibility to purchase any available baby formula products in the next few months amid the shortage.

    Currently, states have contracts with specific manufacturers for baby formula, whether it's Abbott, Gerber or another company.

    Source : www.axios.com

    Baby Formula Shortage Could Leave Parents Scrambling for Months

    Formula makers and retailers say it will take months to address long-running shortages; Congress schedules hearing

    Baby Formula Shortage Could Leave Parents Scrambling for Months

    Baby Formula Shortage Could Leave Parents Scrambling for Months Formula makers and retailers say it will take months to address long-running shortages; Congress schedules hearing

    A shortage of baby formula at a CVS store in San Antonio this month.


    By Annie Gasparro and Jaewon Kang

    Updated May 12, 2022 4:36 pm ET

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    Baby-formula manufacturers and retailers say they are working to address a long-running shortage in products on store shelves, but the hardships facing U.S. families may take months to abate.

    Abbott Laboratories, ABT 1.77%▲ producer of Similac baby formula, said it is bringing products from its factory in Ireland to the U.S. as it continues talks with the Food and Drug Administration to restart production at its factory in Michigan. However, the company has said it would take weeks before products from the plant are available on store shelves.


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